A number of former Virgin Australia staff who lost their jobs after refusing to comply with the airline’s vaccination mandate will bring the case before the Fair Work Commission in Melbourne this week.
Virgin announced in August 2021 that all customer-facing staff would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 15 November 2021, while corporate staff had until 31 March 2022.
However, the former staff members argue that they were unfairly dismissed due to refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and have taken the matter to Fair Work Australia.
According to reports, there are eight hearings scheduled for Thursday involving Virgin Australia and former staff members.
“A small number of employees who have had their employment terminated for non-compliance with the policy have commenced proceedings in the Fair Work Commission,” a Virgin spokesperson said.
“Virgin Australia maintains that requiring vaccination is the best way to protect the health and safety of our team members, and in turn the wider Australian community and everyone’s way of life, and we will be defending proceedings.”
The airline spokesperson noted that there are several other overlapping state mandates for aviation workers.
In October, Virgin confirmed that it would not mandate vaccinations for its passengers on domestic flights.
Many states later introduced entry restrictions that required domestic travellers from interstate to be vaccinated.
Chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said the issue was a “matter for government” but it would follow any rules implemented by states.
It comes as a similar case against rival Qantas is currently underway, after a group of 24 Qantas Group employees filed legal action against Qantas in the Federal Court in January.
Qantas also announced in August that all frontline staff would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 15 November, or face dismissal.
The group, which includes pilots and engineers from both Qantas and Jetstar, have claimed that the vaccine mandate violates the Fair Work Act and privacy laws.
Last month, a Federal Court judge ordered the lawyer representing the unvaccinated Qantas workers to rewrite their case for the third time, stating the current case is “unclear” and “unsatisfactory”.
“The pleading to me seems to be unsatisfactory,” said Federal Court Justice Darryl Rangiah, who has repeatedly expressed his concern about the lack of clarity in the complainant’s case.
“It’s unclear, it’s scrambled, some of the order of what is alleged doesn’t seem to make sense and some of the allegations, it’s difficult to determine their relevance,” he said.
“What I think is going to have to happen, it’s going to have to be pleaded in a succinct and clear way so that I can understand clearly for example on what basis you say the directions were unreasonable or unlawful. I just don’t have that clarity at the moment.”
Justice Rangiah also suggested that lawyer Rob Grealy consult additional legal counsel before rewriting the case for the third time, “given that is an underrated specialist skill”, in order to make the claim clearer.
The unvaccinated Qantas workers’ team has been given until 4 March to file a new application to the court, which will be heard on 30 March.