The group of unions who lost a Federal Court case against Qantas for denying stood down employees sick leave during the coronavirus crisis have hit out at the ruling.
Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Dan Walton said, “One worker who made a submission to the court has heart failure and cannot access sick leave, another can’t use his carers leave to look after his wife who had a stroke and their six-month-old baby.
“Just imagine the stress they are under. For workers like these and many others, this decision will be a bitter disappointment.”
On Monday morning, Justice Geoffrey Flick agreed with Qantas that stood down staff can’t claim accrued leave because that entitlement depends on work being available to be absent from.
The action was brought by a group of unions including the TWU, AWU and Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union.
One of the staff represented in the case was a 30-year Qantas veteran undergoing cancer treatment, while another was a man with 35 years’ service awaiting a triple bypass. The group now say they will appeal the decision.
AMWU’s Glenn Thompson said, “Going up against a giant like Qantas with their expensive corporate lawyers is never easy. It is deeply disappointing that a company that has received millions of dollars of bailouts from taxpayers chose to spend that money fighting to deny workers their sick leave.
“This decision doesn’t prohibit Qantas from choosing to allow their workers to access their personal leave. We are calling on Qantas to rethink their cruel approach and allow workers to access their personal leave immediately.”
Finally, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, “The ruling is bitterly disappointing for Qantas workers battling serious illnesses and their families, who are enduring worries about their finances at a difficult time in their lives.
“We are looking to appeal this judgment and seek redress for these workers. This is about justice and the fact that workers who are battling serious illnesses should be allowed to draw down the significant sick leave they have accrued through years of hard work at Qantas.”
Qantas said in a statement, “Unfortunately, coronavirus has meant the majority of our employees have been stood down and not receiving their regular income. The Court has confirmed that employees who are stood down are not eligible to receive paid sick leave because there is no work to be absent from. Employees can still access annual leave, long service leave and other support including the government’s JobKeeper payments.”