Union stands by claim prisoners used on Qantas maintenance

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Union stands by claim prisoners used on Qantas maintenance

The aircraft engineers union is sticking to its story that prison labour is used on maintenance of Qantas aircraft in Singapore, despite the airline's denials.

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The aircraft engineers union is sticking to its story that prison labour is used on maintenance of Qantas aircraft in Singapore, despite the airline's denials.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) said in a statement today that it has been 'flooded' with reports from members and non-members about the use of prison labour on Qantas aircraft.

The union quotes one report from an engineer currently working in Asia stating:

'Hi to the guys at the ALAEA, I read the front page of the SMH website today regarding the use of Singapore prisoners to clean Qantas aircraft.

Eyewitness reports

'I frequently witnessed the practise on the Qantas B767 aircraft undergoing C Checks at a facility here in Singapore from 2001 till 2002 where I was employed on contract as a supervising LAME [Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers] after the Ansett collapse.

'The cleaners were invariably 'foreign guest' workers who had over-stayed their work visas and were put to use at the maintenance facility doing spot cleaning prior to inspections in an effort to clear off their debt to the Singapore government.

'Executive General Manager of Qantas Engineering David Cox's denial in the newspaper is a little hard to understand as I recall he along with the senior engineering managers of the time visited the maintenance facility to discover how the company was able to get the Qantas aircraft turned around in record times — which there were of course "Changi Prisoners" cleaning his aircraft.'

Brought in to clean planes

The ALAEA said it would make available to the press a number of its members who would confirm they had 'witnessed first hand the use of prison labour on Qantas aircraft in Singapore facilities'.

ALAEA Federal Secretary, Steve Purvinas, told a Senate inquiry yesterday that prisoners from the Singapore jail were brought in to clean planes before scheduled deep maintenance.

'The prisoners are released under supervision and taken to the Qantas aircraft,' Purvinas said. 'The prisoners are used to wash down the wheel-well bays before inspections, they're used to go upstairs into the flight deck of the aircraft and to clean the area out so it's ready for inspection by the local engineers.'

News service AAP today reports that Qantas was 'unable to categorically deny the use of prisoners in all of its operations'.

Qantas 'categorical denial'

In a statement David Cox said: 'Qantas categorically denies the union's outrageous claim regarding prisoners. No prisoners have access to any Qantas aircraft undergoing maintenance — in Singapore or anywhere else.'

He said the claim 'is part of an industrially motivated campaign by the ALAEA aimed at protecting uncompetitive work practices in Australia'.

Cox said other statements made by the union in its submission to the inquiry into aspects of the Qantas Sale Act, and at the hearing in Canberra were also incorrect.

No compromise on safety

He said that regardless of ownership, safety would remain Qantas's number one priority.

'Qantas will never compromise on safety, and the ALAEA knows this,' Cox said.

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