Airport firefighters could go on strike over the Christmas holidays after being granted a key extension by the Fair Work Commission.
The move could result in significant delays and cancellations for passengers at what is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for domestic aviation.
Earlier this month, the United Firefighters Union voted 93 percent in favor of work stoppages of between two and 12 hours and also upheld a motion of no confidence in Airservices Australia.
However, the union this week won an extension of its window to hold the action until January 1.
UFU is believed to be seeking a 15.5 percent pay rise over three years, as well as a commitment to hire more staff.
Airservices Australia, the government agency responsible for airport rescue and firefighting, is offering an 11.5 percent increase.
Should a strike occur, local fire services would have to take on the extra work – although some airlines could refuse to land at airports.
UFU Aviation Department Secretary Wes Garrett told The Australian it is important that airports are fully staffed with firefighters at all times.
“Each day, hundreds of flights are operated out of Australia’s airports without the required aviation fire protection in accordance with international flight safety regulations,” Garrett said.
“It means the safety of thousands of air travelers is at risk and as a result, aviation firefighters are calling for an urgent increase in staffing and a major reform of the management of air ambulance and fire services across Australia.”
Airservices previously said UFU should “return to the negotiating table” and argued it had already made a “generous” offer to union members.
“Airservices will take all necessary steps to prevent flight disruptions as a result of the industrial action,” it said.
“Our priority is to ensure the safe and efficient continuation of our services to keep Australian aviation moving.
“Air services will continue to respond to the security needs of airlines, airports and the traveling public.”
It follows that Dnata catering staff and Menzies ground handlers canceled a vote on industrial action after pushing for pay increases and job protections in September.
Dnata groundhandlers also called off a planned 24-hour strike after receiving an immediate 12.6 percent pay rise.