The TWU has slammed Qantas for pushing ahead with a PR announcement on mandatory vaccination without consulting with workers or addressing any of their concerns about losing pay or difficulties accessing the vaccine.
A recent survey of 800 aviation workers showed only one third have been fully vaccinated with many workers saying they were having difficulty getting access to the vaccine and in organising vaccination ahead of roster changes with the potential of losing work. A majority of those vaccinated organised the shot themselves (70%), with just 30% assisted by their employer.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas should urgently meet with workers and unions to ensure workers will not risk losing their jobs or any pay.
“Qantas has jumped the gun yet again ahead of the Attorney General’s roundtable today of ACTU and employer associations on vaccination take up. This snap announcement is completely void of a plan to support workers to get vaccinated by November. Workers have spoken out about the difficulties they’ve faced accessing the vaccine, but Qantas has refused to listen. Qantas’ own survey shows vaccine hesitancy is extremely low, yet Qantas has pushed ahead with another unilateral decision that will heap unnecessary stress onto workers.
“Qantas knows that workers are worried about losing out on pay or shifts that could earn them penalty rates while trying to get vaccinated and recovering from side effects. This means nothing to Alan Joyce, who enjoyed an $11m pay packet last year but means everything to workers who’ve been dragged through hell and battled with uncertainty and the prospect of financial ruin over the last 18 months.
“This is a disproportionate backflip from Qantas’ harmful downplaying the virus in 2020 which saw workers punished for raising safety concerns and a covid cluster spread, putting a worker in intensive care.
“If Qantas truly had health and safety in mind, it would be offering support to workers and ensuring rapid testing of passengers and crew is put in place to prevent the risk of spread on planes. After outsourcing all of its ground work, Qantas has created safety and security gaps in its own chain of workers getting planes in the air.
“While the Federal Government has refused to hold Qantas to account for any of its heartless and dictatorial decision making over the last year, including the illegal outsourcing of 2,000 workers, Alan Joyce has taken it upon himself to rule with an iron fist,” he said.
Cabin crew and pilots at 78% overwhelmingly support rapid pre-flight tests of crew and passengers to help reduce risks.
In 2020, Qantas stood down a trained health and safety rep who raised the alarm about hygiene standards on flights from Wuhan. It was later reprimanded by Safe Work Australia for this action.
Qantas and the TWU are back in the Federal Court at 4pm today for a remedy hearing to determine the next steps towards reinstatement and compensation for workers illegally outsourced.
Comments about vaccine access from the aviation worker survey:
One cabin crew respondent said: “I travelled 2 hours each way to get my shots – total four hours additional driving on top of a ten hour work day and waking up that morning at 2.30am. After getting the vaccine I got home at 11pm that day. Unbelievably exhausting.”
A cabin crew worker echoed this problem: “Most cabin crew I have spoken to who weren’t vaccinated is because it was too far from home to travel. Also I had to try and time my shots and bid for days off which was very stressful and annoying that I had to use my bids to get the day off and not guaranteed. The company should assist cabin crew with organised time off to get the shot.”
“The government should be facilitating employers of front-line workers, provision and access for staff vaccinations,” said a cabin crew worker.
Another called for “vaccine clinics at airports for border and transport workers. Rostering protocols amended to allow one to book in for a vaccine and not have to cancel the appointment due to a duty change.”
A pilot called for “time off for vaccine appointment that is booked blindly without a roster…. frontline crew would have to cancel from a rostered trip to attend a vaccination appointment made weeks ago.”
A ground crew worker said: “I’m a casual and only get a roster a few days in advance. It’s impossible to book a time to be vaccinated without risking losing a day’s pay.”