australian aviation logo

Stood down Qantas safety rep ‘created anxiety’ over COVID, court hears

written by Adam Thorn | November 14, 2022

A former Qantas health and safety rep who raised concerns over COVID-19 was stood down for “creating anxiety” among staff, a court has heard.

Crown prosecutor Patricia McDonald SC told a District Court on Monday that Theo Seremetidis was informed by the airline the risk of the virus was “negligible” in February 2020.

The evidence came at the start of a long-awaited trial in which Qantas has been charged with discriminatory conduct and alleged breaches of workplace health and safety laws.

Seremetidis earlier said his comments to his superiors were made in part due to the fact that Qantas did not yet provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) to complete their role cleaning aircraft.


On Monday, the court heard how the ground handler, who had worked for Qantas for seven years, advised colleagues of their right to refuse apparently unsafe work.

Then, on 2 February, he was stood down for “directing workers to cease unsafe work, and that is creating anxiety amongst the workforce”.

Qantas defence solicitor Bruce Hodgkinson, however, said that at the time, “the risk [of catching COVID-19] outside of China was very low”.

He urged the case to be seen “without the benefit of hindsight” and based on “what was known at the relevant time”.

Last year, charges were formally brought against Qantas’ ground services unit, QGS, over discrimination for a prohibited reason as defined under the state’s Work Health and Safety Act.

The TWU this week said the case was a “historic” and “landmark” prosecution and hailed its member for taking on a “known corporate bully”.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, “The standing down of Theo coincided with Qantas’ efforts to downplay the deadly virus in public commentary and worker briefings. Shortly after, a Covid cluster occurred in the Qantas baggage room in Adelaide, which almost claimed the life of one of our members.”

Qantas earlier argued that Seremetidis was stood down “while he was investigated” for failing to comply with Qantas’ Standards of Conduct policy, which allegedly included the employee “attempting to incite unprotected industrial action”.

“There are established legal mechanisms for health and safety representatives to follow if they have concerns. Qantas supports and encourages our employees to utilise these mechanisms if they have safety concerns,” it said.

“It’s worth noting that there was not a single positive COVID case carried on our flights back from China.”

Within weeks of the original incident, SafeWork NSW instructed Qantas to introduce new policies and cleaning measures to better protect staff and passengers from COVID-19.

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

Seremetidis was later permanently let go from Qantas, forming one of the 2,000 ground workers that had their roles outsourced.

The case continues.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

Comments (7)

  • Craithie


    TWU having yet ANOTHER go at QANTAS.

    Are they trying to drive the Company to the wall? Kaine would seem to be getting very personal in his constant diatribes against our National Carrier.
    NOT a good look for a union rep.

    This ongoing vendetta by the TWU against the airline has been ongoing since Oct 2011.

    It’s to be hoped QANTAS wins both cases the TWU has against it currently.

  • Anonymous


    I used to work for Qantas and requested to work from home when the pandemic was kicking off. My manager said no, because it would create concern amongst the maintenance workers who couldn’t work from home. I argued that was unreasonable, to put my health and their at risk just to keep others calm, when we should be minimising contact between people with what was going on in Greece at the time. He said i was displaying anxiety in relation to the virus. Yet still wouldn’t let me work from home until the Vic government mandated it a few days later.

    • Vannus


      No wonder you posted as ‘Anonymous’, as you’re having a go at the Company which employed, & paid you.

      QANTAS could only go by Fed Govt directives’ which were in place at THAT TIME!

      Fed up with people whinging that they couldn’t get their ‘own way’, when upon employment, they signed a Contract to work, per that contract.

  • ZKaviation


    Theo Seremetidis is a hero.

    • Timothy


      ……to whom?

      And why?

      Somebody who refuses to work, for which he’s being paid well, is no hero.
      You join a company, & you agree to do your designated job.
      End of.

    • Adrian


      Your ‘name’ above your comment fools nobody.

      Aren’t you a lucky one to be living here, & not in a current war-torn Central European country.

  • Mark


    It would be a good idea if an Enquiry was set-up to find out the reasons’ the TWU is constantly filing law suits against QANTAS.

    It’s sure as anything that they’ve an ulterior agenda, it’s bordering on harassment, & it’s about time they were investigated into their quite very questionable practices’.

Comments are closed.

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.