Donuts, tote bags and gas vouchers: Companies offer sweeteners to attract workers to airport jobs

There were cupcakes, donuts and $500 gas vouchers, along with promises of free training. Thousands of job seekers flocked to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport for a job fair on Thursday, to hear about vacancies that baggage handling, catering, retail and security – as well as major airlines and departments such as Border Force and Federal Police – were looking to fill.

More than 30,000 people were employed at the airport before Covid, but an estimated 15,000 jobs have been lost throughout the pandemic, said Geoff Culbert, the airport’s chief executive.

Culbert said that despite promising attendance at the job fair, where more than 40 companies set up booths, long lines and travel disruptions resulting from understaffing will continue to plague the airport.

“I think every additional employee we can add to the airport is going to help alleviate congestion, but the reality is that these shortages are going to last a little longer,” he said.

“It’s the tightest labor market we’ve seen in 40 years. We have 5,000 jobs to fill and it will take time,” he said.

While many of those who turned out on Thursday were school leavers and unemployed looking to enter the industry with printed CVs in hand, a large proportion of those attending were people employed in other sectors hoping for a change careers as well as former aviation workers let go during the pandemic.

Many were also those who had lost their jobs due to vaccination mandates, with several stall workers telling Guardian Australia that potential workers ask if available positions require them to be vaccinated.

Qantas, which suffered from a shortage of baggage handlers in in recent months as it tries to overturn a court ruling that it illegally outsourced nearly 1,700 ground workers, did not have a booth at Thursday’s job fair.

However, Swissport, one of the companies that Qantas and Jetstar have contracted for baggage handling services, was one of the most popular stands. One of its employees said the company was desperate to increase the number of baggage handlers. She said they only hire part-time contracts, but offer workers full-time hours under those contracts, at the rate of $23.41 an hour.

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The Border Force booth was overwhelmed with interest in the 80 jobs at Sydney Airport. “I didn’t expect this at all, it’s crazy,” said an ABF employee as he handed out one of his last blue tote bags to a high school graduate who had inquired about a job at full-time offering a salary as high as $57,000. .

“I only queued for the tote bag; I just nodded at what he was saying,’ the bachelor told the Guardian minutes later.

At the adjacent stand, the Australian Federal Police were looking to fill “loads and loads” of jobs, one of its employees said, as uniformed officers carrying machine guns fielded questions from those interested.

“It’s not just about working at the airport,” said one employee, saying that after taking an entry-level job at the airport, officers could move into intelligence positions at the airport. ‘foreign. “If you want to work in intelligence in Washington, The Hague or Islamabad, that’s where you start,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the nearby stand of a taxi company, fliers and employment brochures sat in a mostly untouched pile.

Certis, under contract with Sydney Airports to provide security screening services, was struggling to restore its workforce to pre-Covid levels and had to offer staff incentives in recent months to show up for work.

Their booth, however, was one of the most popular at the job fair, with aviation control jobs offering $24.12 an hour plus a $1.70 stipend – a competitive wage per hour. to baggage handling and other manual roles.

Rex, a regional carrier that has expanded to major city routes in recent months while cutting several regional services, advertised pilots, flight attendants, engineers, ground handlers and employees of customer service. Private jet charter companies were also desperate for staff to meet a surge in demand for their services, a worker said.

Large crowd around Australian Border Force stand
The Australian Border Force stand was overwhelmed with interest in the 80 positions available. Photography: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Luxury retailer Burberry was also trying to attract staff to the fair, as well as food outlets such as McDonald’s, Red Rooster and Sumo Salad.

Among those present at the job fair was Michael, a public transport employee who lives nearby and who did not want his last name published for fear that his employer would realize that he was looking for a new job. use.

“I’m not a big gunslinger, so the AFP dropout confused me a bit,” he said.

After walking through all the booths, with a collection of tote bags under his arm, Michael insisted on applying for a security screening job at Certis.

“I’m looking for a bit of a change in life, and it sounds exciting, and because they’re so desperate, they’ll accept me part-time so I can study on the side.”

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