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Qantas probed for suspending worker who raised COVID-19 concerns

written by Adam Thorn | April 2, 2020

The NSW workplace safety authority has written to Qantas to confirm it’s investigating the suspension of a worker who raised concerns about staff being exposed to coronavirus.

SafeWork NSW has the power to fine the carrier up to $500,000 if it’s found guilty.

Qantas has previously strongly rebutted the claims, insisting that the worker actually told colleagues it was not safe to work on aircraft arriving from China, spreading unnecessary alarm. However, The Transport Workers Union, which is representing the staff member, insists the person was a health and safety representative who raised legitimate concerns.

Under section 104 of the NSW Work Health and Safety Act, an employer cannot discriminate against a worker for raising concerns or carrying out their role as a health and safety rep.

TWU NSW branch secretary Richard Olsen said, “The TWU believes there is ample evidence to prove that Qantas engaged in discriminatory and prohibited behaviour.


“It is incomprehensible to the TWU that the Sydney worker was stood down due to his concerns for his co-workers. Now with the company-wide stand down, Qantas has put their own internal investigation on hold, leaving the worker uncertain of his future, and we are watching the company scramble to manage their own actions.

“Qantas’s behaviour from the start of this pandemic has been outrageous. It has refused to listen to workers’ legitimate concerns and instead shut them down.

“This has had a massive impact on the entire workforce during a very stressful time as many people have been afraid to raise concerns. This is not the way to conduct a safe and efficient airline.”

Qantas has confirmed it will co-operate with the investigation.

Qantas and Jetstar planes cross paths (Victor Pody)

The revelation is the latest in a string of potential safety issues affecting Qantas recently.

Most notably, on 5 March, SafeWork NSW said that Qantas’ cleaning standards are so poor they could put passengers and staff at risk of catching COVID-19.

An inspection note obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald noted how cleaners were wiping tray tables without disinfectant and performing tasks such as handling soiled nappies and dirty tissues without wearing “protective equipment” for “the majority of these tasks”.

SafeWork NSW issued Qantas with an “improvement notice” and ordered the airline to develop a new system specifically to deal with COVID-19.

On Wednesday, five more Qantas baggage handlers working in Adelaide Airport were diagnosed with coronavirus on Wednesday, on top of the six confirmed cases the day before.

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Comments (7)

  • Kurt


    Nothing whatsoever surprises me in QF’s actions. They seem to stem from the top and that buck must stop with Alan Joyce. He is a nasty man with a bulldog approach and yet again something else has come to the fore show what his colors. He lack any people skills and is only driven by the almighty $$$ and his own arrogant management style.

  • Craigy


    I don’t believe a word the TWU utter on any subject. I suspect this is a case of grandstanding by the NSW Workplace Safety Authority. Another case of relevance seeking in the current health crisis.

  • ALAN



  • Michael Andrew


    Any contaminated bags or freight loaded onto an aircraft will remain contaminated at and beyond it’s destination?

  • This sort of behaviour from several Australian organisations towards employees and suppliers at such a stressful time is not exemplary. It is easy to pay lip service to “come together as aussies” during these difficult times, but time and time again their actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what they’re saying. The colours shown by their actions, and attitude of being self concerned where nothing else matters is at odds with the Spirit of Australia I have grown up to believe. #VeryUpsetting

  • Wayne Lawrence


    Obviously more concerned with seeing Virgin Australia collapse than they are about their own people and business practices.

  • Bill O'Really?


    Why doesn’t Alan just ground the airline until he gets his own way again? Kick em while they are down, great management style, such a people person. Who doesn’t love AJ?

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