COVID-19: Qantas wins first round in Vaccine Mandate court challenge
About 24 Qantas workers who sought an injunction to stop Qantas from taking disciplinary action against them for defying the vaccine mandate, have lost their case – mainly because Qantas offered an undertaking that would have the same effect.
Qantas was one of the first big employers to mandate double vaccination for its workers back in August 2021. Qantas/Jetstar staff particularly airport workers, cabin crew and pilots were required to be double vaxxed by 15 November 2021, with a deadline of 31 March 2022 for other workers.
Workers challenging the mandate claimed that Qantas had not adequately researched the safety of the ‘experimental’ vaccines before implementing the mandate.
The court on the other hand felt that the process Qantas engaged in including conducting a survey of 12,000 of 22,000 staff, union consultation, and hearing employees reasons for not getting vaccinated suggested that it was fairly consulting staff.
It didn’t help that the unvaccinated employees representative did not provide any health evidence to support the claim that the vaccines posed a risk that Qantas had not considered.
Delaying the action until 2 months after the mandate was introduced also didn’t help their case.
Justice Downe also found it difficult to understand the urgency as workers were “unable to point to any urgent harm or irremediable harm they will suffer if the interim injunction is not granted”.
The application for an injunction now defeated is but the first step in the case. The substantive case about whether the mandate stands will most likely be heard in March.
This is a more than reasonable decision. It will be interesting to hear the full case decision, as it will further the case law on COVID-19 vaccination mandates. So far we have a Fair Work Commission decision upholding a challenge to a BHP mandate on the grounds of inadequate consultation. The Qantas case argues on the same grounds, amongst others, but in the Federal Court.
Not a ‘hand me the popcorn’ case or decision. More a ‘wake me when it’s over’ one.