TWU

Virgin Blue condoned porn, claim sacked workers

Release date: 20/06/2010

Sharing pornography has been commonplace in the offices and staff rooms of Virgin Blue for years, a group of workers  sacked by the airline claim. And they say that, far from objecting to the practice, airline management openly condoned it.At least five of the more than 25 Virgin Blue workers, sacked as part of a company-wide crackdown on pornography, are set to challenge the terminations in court as unfair dismissals.

By PAUL BIBBY
 
In their applications to the workplace relations tribunal the workers claim that, while watching  pornography at work is officially against the rules at Virgin, the behaviour has been "a custom and practice of the workplace for a number of years and has been condoned by management throughout this time".

One of the sacked workers told the Herald that sex had always been part of the airline, from the marketing strategies of owner Richard Branson to staff recruitment methods, and this had extended to the culture of the workplace.

"Virgin was sold to us as a good times employer and a sexy place to work - it's part of the culture," said the staff member, who asked not to be named. 

"The managers knew the porn was going around. It was stuff that was circulating through the company. It was sent to me and I sent it on to other people - and on that basis they dismissed me."

Virgin Blue says that each of the sacked staff members received a warning prior to being dismissed, which they chose to ignore.But the Transport Workers Union, which is representing the workers, says in many cases this warning was made after the alleged breaches took place, and that workers ceased their pornography-swapping practices once it was received.

"The change in policy should not be made retrospectively when the company in the past has condoned encouraged this culture through management," TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said.

"Virgin should have proper training regarding inappropriate offensive material, starting with Richard Branson, the editor of the in-flight magazine Voyeur, and the entire staff and management.

"It is understood Virgin is undertaking  a company-wide investigation into pornography use, with everyone from engineers to cabin crew having their computers scanned by high-tech computer programs that email inboxes for skin-toned images.

A Virgin Blue spokeswoman said the airline would "defend our actions vigorously".

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