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Leaked documents prompt aviation firefighters to threaten nationwide strike during Aprils school holidays

Pulse Tasmania
Critical shortage of aviation firefighters puts Launceston Airport at risk, union warns. Image / Pulse

School holiday travel plans could be thrown into chaos across the country as aviation firefighters threaten to strike.

The industrial action, led by the United Firefighters Union (UFU), comes after “leaked internal documents” from Airservices Australia revealed that Hobart and Launceston airports were at ‘high risk’ due to a lack of aviation firefighting resources.

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In response, aviation firefighters say they will stop work for four-hours on April 15 from 6am.

“These leaked documents confirm that Australia’s air travellers face a dire risk every time they set foot on an aircraft in Australia, should an incident occur,” the UFU’s Wes Garrett said.

“At 13 major airports across Australia, including Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, the leaked documents confirm that air travellers face ‘extreme’ risk.”

Hobart Airport

“Air travellers faced a high risk at the 14 remaining airports across Australia, including Sydney, Canberra and Hobart.”

According to the union, the documents found that the safety of air travellers was being threatened should an incident occur due to a range of resource and personnel shortages.

“These resource shortages include a lack of key personnel to operate breathing apparatus, shortages of firefighting agents to suppress multiple incidents, insufficient personnel and vehicles to protect both sides of a crashed aircraft, a lack of personnel for effective fire ground command and control and a lack of procedural control at Australia’s airports,” Garrett said.

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“Clearly, this significant and ongoing risk to all Australian air travellers is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.”

Airservices Australia said in a statement the dispute was not related to staffing levels and confirmed there were currently sufficient to meet operational requirements.

“Airservices conducts operational risk assessments to capture and define the management of risks and manage them to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable,” the statement said.

Passengers board an aircraft at Launceston Airport. Image / Supplied

“The TRA documentation states that Airservices’ existing processes are both effective and appropriate for current levels of operational risk.”

“Airservices has sufficient ARFF personnel to meet our regulatory obligations and is investing $1 billion over the next 10 years in equipment and facilities for our Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) crews.”

Airservices Australia plans to work with airlines and airports to maintain safe operations and minimise any impact on travellers during the stoppage.

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