February 28, 2024


The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has welcomed the District Court of NSW’s first-of-its-kind compensation order to a health and safety representative (HSR) unlawfully stood down at the start of the pandemic.

The union says the order marks a historic win for workers’ rights and safety advocacy. The compensation order is broken down into $6,000 for economic loss, and $15,000 for non-economic loss.

The District Court of NSW is now hearing submissions on the penalties Qantas should pay.

In 2023, Qantas was found guilty of illegally standing down Theo, who tirelessly championed the health and safety of his fellow workers during the pandemic.

This is a precedent-setting criminal prosecution by SafeWork, after the TWU brought it to their attention, for discriminatory conduct under the Work Health And Safety Act.

NSW/QLD State Secretary Richard Olsen said the compensation order and upcoming penalties orders signify a triumph for all workers.

“Theo is a workplace hero. He fearlessly confronted one of Australia’s major corporate adversaries and came out on top. This case has set a precedent for holding corporations to account but also sent a powerful message about the paramount importance of HSRs to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers across Australia.

“The illegal stand down inflicted mental and emotional strain on Theo, who valiantly fought against an opponent with seemingly endless resources, but he never gave up.”

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the compensation is a drop in the ocean for Qantas’ deep pockets but sends an important message that it must abide by the law.

“This is an important moment in holding Qantas to account for its illegal behaviour, its disregard for workers’ safety concerns during the pandemic and its treatment of workers at large.

“With penalties for standing down Theo still to be decided, upcoming compensation and penalty hearings for 1700 illegally sacked workers, an ACCC prosecution and a class action ahead, Qantas can’t keep writing off legal bills as a cost of doing business – despite making an eye-watering $3.72 billion underlying profit in just 18 months.”

“We need to see a complete cultural shift at Qantas and a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to restore balance, fairness and stability to our aviation industry.”

Mr Seremetidis said it felt like he was in a “David and Goliath battle, but the TWU stood by me every step of the way.”

“This was never about compensation for me, but about holding Qantas to account for its actions and standing up for HSRs’ ability to carry out their duties to keep workplaces safe. The smallest thing Qantas could have done was to say sorry, but they haven’t even done that.

“In the darkest moments of this ordeal, it was the thought of my co-workers and their families that kept me going. Their safety is non-negotiable, and I refused to let Qantas get away with its behaviour,” Seremetidis said.

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