Australian airports face more cargo delays as dnata strike looms

(UPDATE: dnata announced on September 8, 2022 that it had reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement with employees, preventing a possible strike.)

Airport service provider dnata is drawing up contingency plans for a possible staff strike at facilities in Australia that could disrupt cargo shipments as dnata grapples with COVID-related backlogs at its cargo terminal in Melbourne.

The news comes as German airline Lufthansa averted another pilot strike by tentatively agreeing to a new contract with union representatives.

The Australian office of dnata, formerly known as Dubai National Air Travel Agency and part of the Emirates Group, informed customers on Monday that it is preparing for a possible 24-hour industrial action on September 12 which is likely to affect cargo and baggage at Sydney airports. and Brisbane.

The ground handling agent has found replacement workers in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth and expects no slowdown in those locations in the event of a strike, management said in a message to the Freight Trade Alliance, which represents suppliers of logistics services and international shippers. .

“Despite our best efforts to assemble an emergency team in Sydney and Brisbane, we anticipate some disruption to operations if an agreement with our employees is not reached at the Fair Work Commission on Wednesday September 7,” said declared dnata.

The Fair Work Commission is the Australian tribunal that helps resolve labor issues.

In a separate update, dnata said it was deploying additional staff and management teams to help the Melbourne cargo terminal, where a COVID outbreak has reduced staff and caused shipping backlogs.

The company said three new hires started work in Melbourne on Monday.

Most of the backlog is shipments with a large number of small parts rather than containerized shipments. The situation is expected to improve on Wednesday when dnata implements a ban on handling passenger planes with cargo loaded in the cabin. The tactic, which has gained popularity during the pandemic as a way to utilize more space in aircraft temporarily reassigned to dedicated cargo service, is much more labor intensive as individual boxes must be transported to the hand through narrow passenger doors and stacked on seats or the floor.

Import freight delays have been reduced to four days from five to nine days, with perishable, medical and other specialty goods receiving priority service, dnata said.

Lufthansa gets labor relief

Meanwhile, Reuters and other news outlets reported that Lufthansa and pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) shook hands over a labor agreement, leading the union to call off a strike scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Lufthansa Cargo pilots were not to report to work from Wednesday to Friday.

Lufthansa Cargo operates 12 Boeing 777 freighters as well as four others in Aerologic, a joint venture with DHL. CityLine, the intra-European passenger subsidiary of Lufthansa, operates a converted Airbus A321 freighter for Lufthansa Cargo.

Pilots went on strike last Friday for a day, forcing Lufthansa to cancel nearly 1,000 flights and slowing cargo delivery.

Lufthansa (DXE:LHA) and VC said they were still negotiating final details after the airline sweetened its offer. VC was seeking a 5.5% wage increase retroactive to July 1, with automatic inflation adjustments for two years. in addition to the 5.5% increase this year, according to Lufthansa.

The airline said VC’s initial proposal would increase labor costs by about 40% over two years. Instead, it offered a one-time bonus of $900, plus a 5% increase for experienced pilots and an 18% increase for new recruits.

Workforce uncertainty is the latest headwind the air cargo industry has faced this year. Businesses that ship cargo by air, including on passenger planes, have been hit by a summer of travel issues that have led airlines to cancel thousands of flights and some airports to limit daily numbers of passengers. Typhoons, heat waves, COVID shutdowns and geopolitical tensions in Southeast Asia have also hampered airline operations.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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