Court rejects sick Qantas workers bid for leave

Sick Qantas workers have been left devastated after Qantas’s refusal to allow them to use the leave they built up over years has been backed by the Federal Court in a judgment delivered this morning.

Workers, including a man who has been battling cancer and another with heart disease both with over 30 years work at Qantas, took the case after the airline refused to pay them sick leave during the stand down period. Some workers have had to take redundancy at Qantas so they could pay their bills and support their families.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas had let its workers down at their most vulnerable time.

“The ruling will devastate these workers, many of whom are battling serious illness and are struggling to pay bills and support their families. Rather than pay sick leave Qantas is fighting its workers in the courts. These workers have worked hard over many years, they have built up leave and when they fell sick Qantas has told them they are on their own. For a company which last year announced its CEO earned $24 million this is a slap in the face,” he said.

“This is another indication of a Qantas management out of control, taking taxpayers money but refusing to protect workers and retain jobs. Many of the ill workers who have been battling for their sick leave are also facing being axed and outsourced, replaced by workers on lower rates and conditions. The Qantas board needs to start holding management to account over the future of the airline and the Federal Government needs to hold it to account over taxpayers’ investment in the airline,” he added.

Qantas in September was found by the Federal Court to have misused Jobkeeper, refusing to pay workers for the over-time and public holiday work they carried out.

Qantas has been trying to outsource all of its 2,000 baggage, ramp and cleaning workers. This week they put a bid in for their jobs, with EY advising that the bid is competitive given the millions of dollars in cost savings and efficiencies workers identified.

Jetstar’s ground operations has already been mostly outsourced to Swissport, a scandal-ridden ground handler which was exposed over workers sleeping at the airports. Swissport has failed to get an enterprise agreement approved since 2017 because none have met minimum rates and conditons. The Fair Work Commission confirmed last year Swissport has been underpaying its workers for years when it terminated its enterprise agreement which had been in place for seven years.

Qantas revealed in its annual report recently it is paying its senior executives millions of dollars. When Qantas announced last year its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.

The Senate recently passed a motion setting up an inquiry into the future of the aviation industry. It is expected to look at Government and industry failings to date and set out recommendations for support into the future.

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