Supply Chains and the Manufacture of Precarious Work: The Safety Implications of Outsourcing/ Offshoring Heavy Aircraft Maintenance

Michael Quinlan, Sarah Gregson, Ian Hampson, Anne Junor, Tanya Carney


There is now a substantial body of global research pointing to the adverse occupational health and safety (OHS) effects of precarious work. Nonetheless there is still limited research into the link between supply chains and OHS and how these changes impact on non-precarious workers. This study of the outsourcing/off-shoring of heavy aircraft maintenance addresses this gap. Focusing on Australia it shows that the growth of maintenance supply chains has impacted on the OHS and other working conditions, not only of outsourced maintenance workers, but also of those continuing to work in-house for major airlines. In essence, cost pressures and competition have led to work intensification that has affected the latter and undermined their independence in terms of safety decision-making. The paper points to the importance of recognising interlinkages between public and work safety and that the business practices encouraging precarious work affect all workers in an industry, not simply those deemed as precarious.