Rex goes overseas as Aussie pilots sit unemployed
Rapidly expanding airline Regional Express could recruit foreign pilots for its new routes from Sydney to Melbourne and Brisbane despite 40 per cent of local captains and first officers still being out of work.
The Singapore-controlled airline is currently seeking dozens of pilots to fly the six 737s it is adding to its fleet.
Using a labour agreement the Department of Home Affairs granted before the rise of coronavirus and fall of Virgin Australia, Rex is able to recruit from overseas using "Temporary Skills Shortage" visas - the new name for 457s.
While it has yet to employ any pilots on TSS visas, it won't rule out doing so.
"Rex has no foreign pilots recruited for its current operations," a spokesman told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.
Rex shares have soared by 300 per cent since March - to their highest level since 2007 - as investors back its bid to become a fully-fledged domestic airline.
Meanwhile, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots is calling for a ban on bringing in foreigners. In a new submission to a Senate inquiry into the future of local aviation after COVID-19, the union says "the federal government should ensure that Australian citizens and residents are provided the priority to re-enter Australian employment opportunities and that operators should not be able to bring in temporary foreign labour".
Federation president Louise Pole told The Daily Telegraph that a recent survey it conducted among 1000 members found 40 per cent had been forced to find work outside the industry - hopefully only temporarily. Rex deputy chairman John Sharp, a transport minister in the Howard government, defended the airline's need for "flexibility".
Rex had invested $45-50 million in two training facilities only to have graduates "pilfered" by larger carriers, he said.
In 2008 Rex lost half of its pilots in three months to Qantas, Virgin and Emirates, he added. "If anyone gets any kudos for giving Australians a chance in this industry, it's Rex," he said.
Qantas and Virgin hadn't trained any pilots.
There had been times when Rex faced not having a captain for scheduled sectors, which meant it had to combine flights.
"It is still necessary for us to access pilots from overseas in times of shortage," Mr Sharp said.
The labour agreement also covers engineers and instructors.
Mr Sharp said foreign workers made up less than 10 per cent of Rex's 1150-strong workforce, which was set to grow by 400. "We are adding people rather than making them redundant" like other airlines, he said.
Originally published as Rex goes overseas as Aussie pilots sit unemployed