Cancer patient with 30 years’ service takes Qantas to court over sick leave

written by Adam Thorn | April 28, 2020
A Qantas Airbus A380 in the hangar. (Qantas)
A Qantas Airbus A380 in the hangar. (Qantas)

A 30-year Qantas veteran currently undergoing radiotherapy for cancer is among a group of workers taking the airline to the Federal Court today to try and reverse its decision to deny sick leave during stand down.

Other claimants, represented by the TWU, include a man with 35 years’ service awaiting a triple bypass.

Qantas has argued its staff can’t use their sick leave because the entitlement depends on work available to be absent from.

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TWU national secretary Michael Kaine called the decision a “heartless act”.

The cancer sufferer first began working for the airline in 1989 and was due to start seven weeks of treatment on 5 April.

He said the decision to deny him the leave, which he had already accrued, has caused stress to both himself and his family.

The second employee mentioned is on a waiting list for a triple bypass heart surgery, and has also accrued enough to cover his absence. He started his service with Qantas in late 1984, and claims to have rarely been unwell in that time.

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Qantas has said, “Employees are not eligible to receive paid sick leave while they are stood down. Entitlement to paid sick leave is dependent on there being work for employees to be absent from, which is not the case during the period of the stand-down.”

“It is an utter disgrace that Qantas workers, some of whom have worked with the company for several decades and are now battling very serious illnesses, have been refused sick leave in this way,” said Kaine.

“They will struggle financially and this will pile pressures and stress on them and their families, making it more difficult for them to focus on getting better. It is a heartless act and we appeal to Qantas to acknowledge the anxiety this is causing sick workers and to reconsider its actions.”

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34 Comments

  • Stu Robertson

    says:

    Qantas Human Resources, you disgust the community by your actions. Change your name to In-humane Resources.

  • Peter Berriman

    says:

    Come on AJ do the right thing by people with serious illness.

    • Bill O'Really?

      says:

      Yes AJ. Please Ground the airline in protest against your henchment enforcement arm. And maybe chip in a bit of your $24 million well gotten rewards to help these people. Oh, right, sorry, people person, perceptive, perspicacious poncy not, Dear Joycey, a man amoungst men.

  • Guy

    says:

    It’s tough for all the Qantas staff but I wonder at the culture of an airline where the bean counters prevail over compassion towards long term employees suffering more than most.

  • Alan

    says:

    Typical of A….. Joyce. Has a heart of stone.
    What kind of manager is he??
    Hope the pilot wins and BIG

    • James

      says:

      Honestly. Do you REALLY think that this is the stuff that Alan Joyce deals with on a day to day basis as the CEO of Qantas? Do you HONESTLY think that this whole thing was his decision?

      Please tell me that people aren’t that stupid.

      • Michael

        says:

        Unfortunately, people have inherent stupidity, especially when it comes to airlines’.
        They’ve not a clue how they work, just jump on the emotional bandwagon. All they want is ‘cheap’ airfares.

        QANTAS bears the brunt of this, time after time. ‘Tall poppy’ syndrome to the nth degree.

        It’s a Company which should be celebrated, as it is doing in this, its’ Centenary year.

      • Nicholas

        says:

        No but a leader sets the tone of a company and I’m afraid that the tone that staff feel they need to reflect may be a brutal bottom line focused one.

  • John

    says:

    Cancer or heart issues are totally irrelevant. Qantas can’t afford this sort of nonsense

    • JS

      says:

      The cost is a drop in the bucket in these cases. Qantas spent more on lavish PR stunts last year that essentially dont do anything to help the bottom line either. So whats the point of arguing they cant afford it?

  • This kind of stuff from QF underlines why Ansett was just such a great company to work for…

    • Frank

      says:

      Yeah, right, I think not.

      Ansett collapsed, for many & varied reasons’.

      QANTAS is in its’ 100th year now.

    • James

      says:

      Really? Ansett collapsed for many, & varied reasons’.

      QANTAS celebrates its’ Centenary this year.

  • Amelia

    says:

    The employee signed a Contract with QANTAS when he was employed, to uphold the rules of said Company.
    Now, he wants to change those rules to suit himself, in his situation.

    He’s been stood down, which means at the end of COVID-19, he’ll have a job to go back to.

    He should be grateful to QANTAS for that, instead he’s trying to screw it for something he’s NOT entitled to. He should re-read his employment Contract.

    There’re 1000’s of folk in Australia who won’t be as fortunate as he to return to a job.

    • Bobby

      says:

      Wow, Qantas HR have really infiltrated this comments section. Either that or there are some really horrible grubs that will probably end up working for HR -somewhere, anywhere- if they can justify these morally repugnant acts. Shame!

      • Amelia

        says:

        You say that with what proof?
        I state FACTS.
        Obviously you don’t like the truth getting in the way of your story.

    • JS

      says:

      It never ceases to amaze me how many Corporate IR trolls and blind corporate fanboys turn up to comments pages like this. Well ‘Amelia’ here is a ‘fact’, I just so happened to find my employment contract last night and I cannot find a single mention of a situation or use of conditions like this. Neither can I find anything clear in an EBA either. So perhaps you could enlighten everyone here as to why you are so sure it was in this employees particular contract? You accuse him of wanting to change the rules to suit him and yet Qantas routinely and with nil regard changes rules to suit itself all the time, often to the detriment of staff and customers. And of course it isn’t adverse to breaking the law on a regular basis either. Can we all say the phrase “colluding on freight charges in the USA?”
      Yes what a wonderful corporate citizen it is..

  • Amelia

    says:

    When these people were employed by QANTAS, they signed a Contract to uphold the rules of said Company.

    Now, they want the rules to be changed, to suit their particular circumstances.

    They’ve been stood down, but they still have to uphold the rules, as they’re STILL employed. They should be grateful for that. They’ll have a job to go back to after COVID-19, a luxury, that many thousands of people won’t have.

    Maybe they should re-read their employment contracts.

  • Jonathan

    says:

    alan joyce is an a hole. proven beyond all doubt now 😉

    • Jonathan

      says:

      QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce didn’t write the rules staff should abide by.

      They were written decades’ ago.

    • James

      says:

      As you sit behind your keyboard/pad saying that…..hero.

  • Peter J CESNIK

    says:

    How much is QF CEO paid in this time of commercial inactivity …?

    • Amelia

      says:

      In March 2020, QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce, & the Board have decided to accept NO, repeat NO pay until 30/6/2020.
      Do a bit more reading,& get your facts straight.

      • Bobby

        says:

        Amelia, tell us your role at Qantas. You are foolishly adding to the damage you are trying to stem with a really psychopathic mentality.

  • G Farrance

    says:

    Look who is their boss, a heartless man who only considers the bottom line and the investors.

  • Matt

    says:

    And a company that has been gifted a monopoly….again. Remember the first time…Ansett ring a bell?

  • Doug

    says:

    What’s the difference between an employee who is sick and stood down, and one who is well and stood down? Nothing, they’re both still stood down, not working, and therefore not being paid. So, to pay the one who is sick whilst stood down and not the one who is well, would clearly be discriminatory. Sick leave is only payable if you have to take time away from work, which is obviously not the case if you’re stood down. Besides, I would have thought that both these employees, with their many years of service, would have ample annual/long service leave to draw upon in the first instance, like all their healthy stood down colleagues are doing.

    • JS

      says:

      Doug, the issue is that these employees were already on sick leave long before the stand down period was even thought of. Its not like someone trying to pull a swifty by declaring themselves sick after stand down. THAT would be clearly not on and any company well within its rights to refuse it. The issue is one of a company showing no compassion to a tiny group of employees who are chronically ill (in some cases now terminally ill) before this started, had legally accrued this sick leave and have probably used up every bit of annual and long service leave they had already. Is their anyone here brave enough or that morally screwed up here that is willing to happily argue they shouldn’t be shown some form of compassion at the very least? Sadly I’m betting I get at least one bite.

  • over 80

    says:

    Wait until Qantas is running a full normal service and then 10% of the staff all take a sickly, keep doing it in turn until the $24 million dollar man agrees to look at the HR Rules. The old UK airline BEA now BA tried a similar stunt in the sixties when a new engineering superintendent insisted that even when their was no work due to fog etc or all the aircraft were serviceable, that every body had to sit around until the end of the shift, when the fog lifted the shift due to start work all took a sickly, the next day the the engineering director called a mass meeting and stated “I don’t care what has happened, I want things back to where they were a week ago”

  • Cameron

    says:

    What’s a ‘sickly’??? In Australia, it’s called a ‘sickie’, if you’re meaning an illegal action an employee takes, when not really ill.

    What happened to BEA in the ‘60’s bears NO relevance in either time or place NOW!

  • Amelia

    says:

    So according to you, a private citizen can’t make a comment?

    Where’s YOUR proof that my comment is from QF HR?

    What I stated are FACTS; where’s yours’???

  • Chris

    says:

    As heartless as this may seem to some, let this be a lesson and a warning to everyone with inflated opinions.
    If you haven’t got income protection, GO AND GET IT!
    Then this wouldn’t happen.
    This is EXACTLY what income protection is for.

    • Graeme

      says:

      Yes, Chris, you’re correct.

      Both my now adult children took out I/P when they started working.

      They’re now very grateful I insisted they do so. Their chosen workplaces are significantly COVID-19 affected.

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