Sick Qantas workers battle airline over pay in Federal court

Qantas workers, including a man battling cancer and another awaiting a triple bypass, are taking a case against the airline in the Federal Court today over its refusal to pay them sick leave.

The TWU and other unions are taking Qantas to court after the airline informed workers on sick leave that they could no longer access sick pay during the stand down period.

The TWU maintains the airline is breaching provisions of the Fair Work Act. The union has prepared statements for the case, including from a worker battling cancer and another awaiting surgery for a triple bypass. Both workers have worked for Qantas for over 30 years. The hearing is expected to last a day and will be conducted virtually over the internet.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the move by Qantas was heartless as it would force workers battling serious illnesses and injury to struggle financially.

“It is an utter disgrace that Qantas workers, some of whom have worked with the company for several decades and are now battling very serious illnesses, have been refused sick leave in this way. They will struggle financially and this will pile pressures and stress on them and their families, making it more difficult for them to focus on getting better. It is a heartless act and we appeal to Qantas to acknowledge the anxiety this is causing sick workers and to reconsider its actions,” he said.

Qantas sent its workers correspondence shortly after it announced it was standing workers down last month, stating that: “Sick/carer’s leave will not apply during any period of stand down, so you will continue to be stood down and will not be entitled to any sick/carer’s leave payments.”

“The attack on workers battling serious illnesses completes the picture of how Qantas has behaved since the virus outbreak began. It has treated its workers like expendable cogs in its machine. It announced early on it was forcing them to bear the brunt of stand-downs by using their accrued, future and long-service leave. It refused to listen to worker concerns about the spread of the COVID-19, even suspending a worker in Sydney, and has allowed several clusters to spread. Now sick workers are forced to go to court over their right to sick pay,” Kaine added.

Safe Work NSW is investigating Qantas over its suspension of a cleaner for raising concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

SafeWork NSW issued Improvement Notices on Qantas last month, reflecting the airline’s “inadequate system of work used to clean planes” with aircraft cleaners forced to wipe tray tables with the same dirty cloths and handle blood, vomit, soiled nappies, used masks and tissues without protective gear. The Regulator’s Improvement Notices stated that Qantas was at risk of exposing workers to an infectious disease.

Over 50 Qantas workers have tested positive for the virus, including 18 baggage handlers at Adelaide Airport.

/Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.