News, Culture & Society

Qantas charged with breaching workplace safety laws after it stood down a cleaner who feared Covid

Qantas charged with breaching workplace safety laws after it stood down a cleaner who feared staff could be exposed to Covid cleaning a plane from China

  • National carrier charged with breaches of workplace safety law
  • It stood down a work who expressed concerns about Covid infection on a plane
  • The incident occurred last year at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic 
  • The worker later lost his job when Qantas retrenched 2000 staff late last year 


A worker who was stood down after raising concerns about possible Covid-19 infection aboard an aircraft that had arrived from China has led to Qantas being charged with breaches of workplace safety law.

The incident occurred at the start of the pandemic in February last year when the employee, a health and safety representative, allegedly advised colleagues not to board and clean a plane that had arrived from Shanghai.

Qantas stood the employee down and said it was investigating the worker for possible breaches of its workplace policies, but a SafeWork NSW investigation into that action has now resulted in charges against the national carrier filed in the NSW District Court.

Qantas has been charged with breaches of workplace safety law for standing down a worker who raised concerns about Covid-19 infection on a plane that had arrived from China in February 2020

The charges were filed under a section of NSW’s Work Health and Safety Act that prevents an employer from discriminating against a worker who raises safety issues or is carrying out a workplace health and safety role.  

‘The charges relate to [Qantas] standing down a worker who raised concerns about potential exposure of workers to COVID-19 whilst cleaning aircraft in early 2020, SafeWork NSW said in a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald.

‘As the matter is before the court, no further information can be provided at this time.’ 

After the employee’s standing down Qantas had claimed the worker’s actions were not justified and against the advice of health authorities. 

On February 7 last year, Qantas informed the employee that he was being investigated for spreading misinformation and inciting unprotected industrial action. 

But the following month, SafeWork NSW issued the airline with Improvement Notices to address an ‘inadequate system of work used to clean planes’.

SafeWork inspectors had observed aircraft cleaners using the one cloth to wipe tray tables and handle blood, vomit, soiled nappies, used masks and tissues, without protective gear. 

The Improvement Notices stated that Qantas was at risk of exposing workers to an infectious disease.

In March 2020 SafeWork NSW issued Qantas with Improvement Notices to address an 'inadequate system of work used to clean planes'

In March 2020 SafeWork NSW issued Qantas with Improvement Notices to address an ‘inadequate system of work used to clean planes’

The employee who had been stood down subsequently lost his job with the airline in November 2020 as part of Qantas’ retrenchment of 2000 staff. 

The campaign to have charges brought against Qantas had been fought by the Transport Workers Union (TWU. 

‘If safety reps at Qantas can’t stand up to unsafe work practices, then no worker is safe. The TWU believes there is ample evidence to prove that Qantas engaged in discriminatory and prohibited behaviour, TWU NSW Branch Secretary Richard Olsen said earlier this year.

‘It is incomprehensible to the TWU that the Sydney worker was stood down due to his concerns for his co-workers.’

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk