This week SafeWork NSW’s prosecution of Qantas will conclude over the targeting and standing down of trained health and safety representative Theo Seremetidis at the start of the pandemic.
The week had been set aside for the District Court of NSW to hear Qantas’ defence. However, the airline’s counsel had no witnesses to call, therefore final submissions will be made from today until Friday.
The first-of-its-kind prosecution was launched following criminal charges laid by the NSW safety regulator over the targeting and standing down Theo Seremetidis as a result of his advice to workers on their rights to cease unsafe work. This is a duty bestowed upon trained health and safety representatives under the Workplace Health and Safety Act.
At the time the advice was given, workers were being made to clean planes arriving from covid hotspots in China without adequate personal protective equipment, covid-safe training, or disinfectant – just water and a singular rag to clean multiple tray tables.
Mr Seremetidis never worked another day at Qantas. Exactly one year after he was stood down, he and his workmates were illegally outsourced by the airline.
TWU NSW/QLD Secretary Richard Olsen said:
“The conclusion of this landmark case has been a long-time coming, and Theo should be commended for his bravery in standing strong against Qantas’ reprehensible conduct since he was stood down in early 2020.
“The law is clear on workers’ rights to work in a safe environment, with proper training and equipment. Theo took his duties as a health and safety representative seriously, in stark contrast to Qantas’ attitude to downplay the covid virus and punish workers asking for a safe workplace.
“We look forward to the conclusion of this case. Whatever the result, it is clear that Qantas acted immorally and irresponsibly. Theo is a workplace hero and has been an inspiration to workplace health and safety represetnatives up and down the country.”
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said:
“This is yet another record broken by Qantas – an Australia-first prosecution of this type by the safety regulator. It adds to the list of record, eye-watering profits and two Federal Court findings of the largest case of illegal sackings in Australian history.
“Theo never worked another day at Qantas after being illegally outsourced with his colleagues. Qantas management’s strategy is to seek out loopholes or attempt to create them. We need tighter legislation to hold them to account, and that is what the Federal Government is acting on.
“Monday’s Senate testimony was a moment of reckoning for Qantas, and this prosecution is another. Theo Seremtidis will go down in the history books as a worker who took on a corporate bully and exposed Qantas’ appalling, dictatorial attitude towards its workforce.
“We need a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to reset and rebalance aviation back towards an industry with quality jobs and service standards.”