A Jetstar breach which saw passengers from Melbourne disembark at Sydney without virus checks shows the need for national rules on prevention and protection on airlines and at airports, says the Transport Workers’ Union.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas has proved on numerous occasions that it does not take the virus seriously and that a national plan was needed.
“We are appalled that at the height of a serious outbreak in Victoria, passengers from Melbourne were allowed to leave a plane at Sydney without checks. This could have serious health implications and is concerning for other passengers and workers. It is not good enough for Jetstar to try and shift the blame on this. Qantas all along has been implementing their own systems, which we believe do not keep passengers or workers safe. We urge the Federal Government to put in place national rules that all airlines and airports must follow,” Kaine said.
“Since the outbreak of the pandemic Qantas has failed to take the threat seriously. There have been several communications to frontline staff from Qantas stating the risk to COVID-19 was ‘negligible’ and ‘low risk’. Qantas has ignored medical experts who warned COVID-19 was highly contagious and potentially deadly. It allowed a cluster of 34 cases to occur in Adelaide Airport – one of the worst workplace clusters. It stood down a cabin cleaner who is a health and safety rep for raising concerns about COVID. Its ‘fly well’ plan to return to flying during the pandemic details optional masks and hand sanitisers for passengers and spoke about giving passengers “peace of mind” rather than protecting them from a deadly virus. There was zero consultation with staff on this plan. It comes as no surprise in this context that a major breach has occurred,” Kaine added.
SafeWork NSW is investigating Qantas’s suspension of the cabin cleaner and health and safety rep, who remains stood down.
The NSW safety regulator has also reported that at the start of the outbreak there was an “inadequate system of work used to clean planes” at Qantas with cabin cleaners forced to wipe tray tables with the same dirty cloths and handle blood, vomit, soiled nappies, used masks and tissues without protective gear.