GROUND staff have blown the whistle on what really goes on behind the scenes at Australia's busiest airport - and it isn't pretty.
Staff say they are forced to camp beside baggage carousels, sleep inside luggage containers among rat droppings and rubbish and hang around inside Sydney Airport for up to 15 hours a day in order to work split shifts for paltry pay, the ABC reports.
Workers from ground handling contractor Aerocare have also told of a frightening near-miss by sleep-deprived staff which saw a fully loaded Tiger Air passenger jet in Brisbane preparing for takeoff with a cargo door left wide open by mistake.
Aerocare is contracted to major airlines to provide ground support at Sydney airport, loading bags, passengers and performing safety checks.
"It's filthy it's cold it's dark it's just absolutely horrible," Aerocare truck driver George Orsaris told ABC's 730 program.
"It's definitely not conditions that people in this day an age, especially in Australia, (expect) are going on here. It's unthinkable."
Leaked photos show makeshift beds underneath passenger terminals, where staff say they camp out between shifts because they can't afford to go home.
"They can't afford the fuel or the tolls," Transport Workers Union spokesman Tony Sheldon said, claiming workers were earning as little as $1500 a month.
"This is a terrible indictment on the Australian workforce."
Another anonymous whistleblower told the program: "We're just getting ground down. its all about the money. it's stopped being about people ... it's just a means to an end."
Aerocare has denied the allegations of poor treatment and fatigue-related safety incidents.
The company, which reportedly posted a $13 million profit last year, said in a statement it has "invested millions of dollars to improve the quality of its rostering so as to maximise the duration of shifts, with the goal of securing more contracts which would enable Aerocare to offer employees longer shifts and further viable fulltime positions."