The TWU is seeking urgent answers from Qantas after six baggage handlers at Adelaide airport tested positive to coronavirus.
TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ian Smith said the news was concerning for all workers operating at Adelaide airport. “We are trying to find out what protections are in place for other workers who may have come into contact with those infected. We want to know how and when this information became apparent and what steps were taken to minimise the risk to other staff. We are trying to find out what steps Qantas has taken to thoroughly clean the area and equipment that infected staff were operating,” he said.
Safe Work NSW earlier this month found Qantas was risking exposing workers and passengers to the virus during an investigated into how Qantas cleaned its planes, after a cleaner was suspended for raising concerns. The safety regulator said aircraft cleaners are forced to wipe tray tables with the same dirty cloths and handle blood, vomit, soiled nappies, used masks and tissues without protective gear. The worker remains suspended and Qantas has yet to meet the requirements of set down by Safe Work NSW.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said there has been a fundamental problem with how Qantas has handled this issue from the start which has left workers exposed to risks and now sadly contracting the virus.
“Qantas has told its cleaners and baggage handlers falsehoods right from the start about how this virus spreads and the risk they are exposed to. It refused to listen to their concerns and provide them with the protections and precautions they asked for. Qantas instead shut workers down when they raised their voices. It sacked a trained and elected health and safety representative and has refused to reinstate the worker despite Safe Work NSW backing up his claims. Now we are seeing Qantas workers test positive in Adelaide,” Kaine said.
“Qantas is acting like a corporate bully, refusing to listen to its workers concerns about safety and putting them and their passengers at risk. It needs to listen to it workers right across Australia and ensure their safety,” Kaine added.