The Fair Work Ombudsman has filed legal action against Jetstar over allegations the Qantas-owned budget carrier paid trainee pilots in Australia under cheaper New Zealand contracts.
The case centres on claims Jetstar employed six trainee pilots under New Zealand work conditions “when it was foreseeable the work they were to perform was predominately in Australia.” The Ombudsman alleges Jetstar failed to pay superannuation for the pilots and sought to make them re-pay the cost of their training, both of which violated Australian workplace law.
Jetstar rejected the charges, saying the pilots were originally engaged to work in New Zealand and were to be transferred to Australian contracts. The case now heads to Federal Court in Sydney, where the Ombudsman is seeking fines of up to $33,000 per violation.
“Multi-national companies with wholly or partly-owned overseas enterprises need to exercise caution and care if they engage workers under those entities and then have them work in Australia,” Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said in a statement. Wilson added that the practice was especially problematic when “the terms and conditions their employees are engaged under are less than provided for by Australian law.”
Wilson also indicated that further claims against Jetstar could be forthcoming, saying Fair Work investigators were looking into allegations that Jetstar had underpaid foreign cabin crew working on its Australian domestic flights.
The Fair Work action was quickly seized on by Qantas critics as evidence that the airline’s Asia expansion was part of a plan to off-shore Australian jobs.
“This is not just about a handful of cadets and their contracts,” Independent Senator Nick Xenophon told the ABC. “This strategy to continue to offshort, to rely more and more on foreign-based crew – particularly cabin crew – raises fundamental and deep issues about the future of the Qantas Group strategy into Asia.”