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QANTAS: Guilty again – this time unlawfully sacking a safety officer

QANTAS: Guilty again – this time unlawfully sacking a safety officer

Taking industrial relations to the edge of legality seems in hindsight, to be retired CEO Alan Joyce’s MO. New CEO Vanessa Hudson is living with some of the fallout of that operating approach to industrial relations and safety.

The suspension of a safety officer at the beginning of the pandemic, when planes were still arriving in Australia from China and before there was a vaccine – in fact, before we even knew much about COVID-19, never looked like the right thing to do. Especially when you learn that the safety officer was merely asking Qantas to supply protective equipment for cleaning staff. And some virus beating antiseptic for use by the cleaners of aircraft.

For his trouble, he was suspended and eventually sacked. This was part of the Qantas move to outsource virtually all ground handling staff since ruled as an illegal act.

Qantas aircraft at the gate, Sydney Airport [Schuetz/2PAXfly]
Qantas aircraft at the gate, Sydney Airport [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

The verdict

Qantas Airways has been found guilty by the NSW District Court of breaching the Work Health and Safety Act by standing down a safety representative illegally because he raised health concerns.

Theo Seremetidis was stood down in February 2020 because he advised cabin cleaners that they didn’t have to clean aircraft returning from China if they felt unsafe.

A hearing to determine costs and sentencing has been set for a later date.

Sydney Airport T3, Qantas Terminal arrival gate [2A/2PAXfly]
Sydney Airport T3, Qantas Terminal arrival gate [2A/2PAXfly]

2PAXfly Takeout

In my view, this is definitely a case where Qantas should have fallen on its sword. An airline to be seen as uncaring of its staff, however lowly, damages its reputation. Damning really. I think we would have all understood more. if Qantas had done a ‘guilty as charged’, and reminded us how difficult things were back then, and how so much was unknown. The public is more likely to have understood or at least granted Qantas some slack.

Having defended the behaviour, it now is just another notch on the belt of the failing reputation of Qantas.

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