Unions seek legal action as Qantas denies sick leave

written by Dylan Nicholson | March 31, 2020

A group of unions have come together to announce they will launch a lawsuit against Qantas over its decision not to pay stood down workers sick leave.

Qantas stood down 20,000 workers after heavy international travel restrictions were put in place by the government and have since denied these workers the use of sick leave during this time.

The Qantas Engineers Alliance Unions, which includes the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Electrical Trades Union and Australian Workers Union, said it would make a claim against Qantas this week in the Federal Court.

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The unions believe the airline should be paying stood down employees sick leave to ensure they are able to extend annual leave or long service leave if they feel unwell.

Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks said, “Usually, employees on annual or long service leave can access sick leave if they are unwell, and have their other leave re-credited. But Qantas is leaving workers unable to access sick leave, even if they contract COVID-19. This is an absolute disgrace.”

The Alliance Unions have sought legal advice, and on the basis of that advice today, have decided to file an application in the Federal Court to dispute the interpretation of the National Employment Standards (NES) by Qantas with respect to accessing sick leave while stood down.

Qantas’ refusal to pay workers sick leave if they should get sick while stood down is a breach of the rights of all Australian workers as set out in the national minimum standards (the NES) and the Fair Work Act, and is absolutely unacceptable.

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AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said, “Our workers are the ones who are cleaning potentially contaminated planes to make them safe for passengers to fly on in the future.

“They could contract COVID-19 before being stood down, and yet Qantas is refusing to pay them their sick leave. It shows a total disregard for the wellbeing of their workers. Qantas is just trying to squeeze workers for every last dollar.”

Qantas staff pictured with chief executive Alan Joyce (Qantas)

The unions will file this claim urgently to ensure workers who are stood down receive the maximum entitlements available to them.

“Qantas has received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from the federal government, and now they are trying to weasel their way out of paying workers their sick leave entitlements while they’re stood down. This is a company that will do anything to inflate its budget bottom line at the expense of its workforce”, said AMWU national assistant secretary Glenn Thompson.

The Alliance Unions will file an application in the Federal Court that disputes the interpretation of the National Employment Standards with respect to sick leave – also known as personal leave – while employed but stood down.

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11 Comments

  • Bernhard

    says:

    Angry that Qantas is denying genuine sick leave, particularly those on sick leave before the groundings. It’s not the workers fault this virus has grounded the industry.

    • Peter

      says:

      Hi Bernhard

      If and employee was already on sick leave before the stand down they cannot be denied continued sick leave while they still have available to them. If you know someone in this position then I would advise them to seek the advice of an IR Lawyer if Qantas do not continue to pay sick leave. The same for Maternity or Paternity Leave.

      • Frank

        says:

        Peter… You’re not from the AWU are you?

  • Rod Pickin

    says:

    I think you will find that Sick Leave within the QF payroll system is on a non accrual basis so employees in need may well have to utilise their annual leave and or L.S.L as there is no alternative in house.

  • Nicholas

    says:

    Shameful.

    I think Joyce is starting to lose the plot with his approach to Virgins plight and now worse still this callous approach to his staff.

    So much for the people are our asset stuff…

  • anthony arrowsmith

    says:

    Joyce has a little man syndrome he is un-Australian, put in simple terms short arsed leprechaun and as they would say in Ireland a gobshite

  • Peter

    says:

    As poor and wrong the approach Qantas took to stand down employees an employee cannot take sick leave from work if they are stood down and not working due to there be no work to perform. That is clear in the IR Laws and the Unions must know this .

    However, if someone was already on sick leave before the stand down they cannot be denied continued sick leave while they still have available to them.

  • Craigy

    says:

    Before people start crucifying Qantas, it would be better if people waited until all the details were known and not based on the word of a union official.

  • Rick

    says:

    So let me get this right, they are complaining that someone stood down on no pay, should if they get sick while stood down be able to get sick pay for that period even though they are stood down on no pay. That’s ridiculous as they’ll all suddenly get sick to get paid. What a stupid concept. Stood down means stood down. Full stop – all of them will be getting the job keeper or job seeker allowance, so now they want to double dip as well.

  • Wayne Roberts

    says:

    It will be interesting the airline believes that if you are stood down from working, so no work, how can you be sick and not come to work? There is no work! This does make sense! I bet if it was introduced people would be running to their doctor’s to get certificates for months so as to not use annual leave! Would they do it ….. yep!

  • Timothy Matthews

    says:

    Union shooting from the hip again in an attempt to fill their own pockets. Cheers Qantas Engineers Alliance Unions, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Electrical Trades Union and Australian Workers Union….. Way to bankrupt a company with a lengthy legal battle OR ineligible sick leave payments. I’m sure the 30,000 employees would prefer a company to come back to after all this whole thing blows over

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