March 6, 2020


The Transport Workers Union has taken legal action against Qantas to get a suspended aircraft cleaner reinstated after his concerns about the risk of exposure to the coronavirus were vindicated by the safety regulator.

The TWU has applied to the Fair Work Commission after Qantas yesterday refused the union’s latest request to allow the Sydney worker to resume his duties following a damning Safe Work NSW report.

The report revealed that 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, who is also a trained elected health and safety representative, had raised concerns about the risk of contracting the virus from flights from China. Days after his suspension the Federal Government imposed a travel ban on people entering Australia from China and Qantas itself suspended flights from China. The worker’s colleagues were threatened with disciplinary action.

Qantas will now have to engage with the TWU in conciliation over the suspension.

“Qantas needs to answer some serious questions as it continues to refuse to reinstate a worker who raised concerns which the safety regulator has confirmed in a damning report. What does it take for this corporate dictatorship to admit it was wrong, reinstate this worker and start implementing proper systems of work to keep passengers and workers safe? Workers are crying out for a consistent approach that is expert driven on protective gear, training and information on the coronavirus. An airline like Qantas must be able to provide this,” said TWU Branch Secretary Richard Olsen.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas’s behaviour showed management at the airline was out of control. “The TWU is being contacted on a daily basis by multiple Qantas employees expressing concerns about working at Qantas. They are fearful that they are at risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to elderly relatives, young children at home and even sick children in their kids’ schools. But they know if they speak out they risk being suspended or disciplined. Safe workplaces must allow people to stand up and speak out. This is not happening at Qantas,” Kaine said.

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