Australian Aviation Firefighters Plan Strike Over Airport Concerns

An Australia aviation rescue and firefighting vehicle.
Photo Credit: Airservices Australia

Australian aviation firefighters represented by the United Firefighters Union of Australia (UFUA) are planning a four-hour strike on April 15th.

This action comes in response to leaked internal documents revealing safety concerns at Australian airports.

Leaked Documents and Union Response

The leaked documents detail risk assessments conducted by Airservices Australia between 2021 and 2022. These assessments reportedly classify Australian airports as being at “extreme risk” during emergencies.

The reports in question centre on concerns with multiple airports including capital city primary airports.

The internal documents, called the ‘Task Resource Analysis’ (TRA), are an internationally recognised methodology. It is used to ‘establish justification as to the minimum number of qualified/competent personnel required to deliver an effective Airport Rescue Firefighting Service to deal with an aircraft incident/accident.’ – (International Civil Aviation Organisation)

A methodology Airservices Australia has committed to using, the TRA involves an independent analysis of safety risk at each Australian airport.  

It assesses a number of resources, including aviation firefighting trucks, firefighters, equipment, and procedures. The assessment then determines if resources available are sufficient to mitigate that risk for air travellers.

Morning view over Perth Airport tarmac area.

Airports Identified at Risk

Risk assessments identified 13 airports, including Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, as being at ‘extreme risk’ during a fire or aircraft incident.

The assessments also classified 14 other airports, including Sydney, Canberra and Hobart, as ‘high risk’.

In addition to the nominated capital city primary airports, smaller regional airports also fall within the identified risk categories. A full list of the identified airports can be found here.

The concern revolves around the lack of firefighting resources. The leaked reports set out four risk categories: Low, medium, high and extreme risk.

As part of the risk mitigation strategy, the reports set out minimum numbers of firefighting personnel for each risk category.

Leaked reports from 2021/22 raised concerns for the UFUA, who warn that public safety could be at risk if the identified issues remain unaddressed.

“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,” he stated.

Wes Garrett, United Firefighters Union Aviation Branch Secretary, said that the leaked documents confirmed the Union’s claim over several years about the lack of resources available to protect Australia’s air travellers and the ongoing risk to their safety.

“The leaked internal 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.”

Potential Strike Action

Aviation firefighters are planning a four-hour strike starting at 6:00 am local time on April 15th.

If the strike goes ahead on April 15th, travelers can expect possible delays or cancellations. The planned strike action falls towards the end of the school holiday period.

According to Airservices Australia, the union is yet to formally notify it of the proposed strike action by Australian aviation firefighters.

The exact impact on air travel is as yet unclear. Travelers flying in and out of Australia on April 15th should be aware of the planned strike. It’s advisable to check with your airline directly for any potential delays or cancellations.

Looking Ahead

The UFUA’s strike raises issues of prioritizing safety at Australian airports. Negotiations between the union and airport authorities are likely to continue in the coming days and weeks.

These discussions will seek to address the identified concerns and also to potentially avert the strike.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
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