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Alliance Unions take Qantas to the Federal Court in fight for sick leave

March 30, 2020

The Qantas Engineers Alliance Unions, made up of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), and the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) today announced that they intend to file an application in the Federal Court over Qantas’ refusal to pay sick leave to workers on stand down.

Over the weekend, the Qantas Engineers Alliance Unions wrote to Qantas about both sick leave on stand down, and flexibility to take long service leave in shorter blocks (e.g. 1 day or 4/5 day blocks).

Disappointingly Qantas has refused to alter its position on either of these matters.

The Alliance Unions have sought legal advice, and on the basis of that advice today decided to file an application in the Federal Court to dispute the interpretation of the National Employment Standards (NES) by Qantas with respect to accessing sick leave while stood down.

Qantas’ refusal to pay workers sick leave if they should get sick while stood down is a breach of the rights of all Australian workers as set out in the National Minimum standards (the NES) and the Fair Work Act and is absolutely unacceptable.

The unions will file this claim urgently to ensure workers who are stood down receive the maximum entitlements available to them.

“Our workers are the ones who are cleaning potentially contaminated planes to make them safe for passengers to fly on in the future. They could contract COVID-19 before being stood down, and yet Qantas is refusing to pay them their sick leave. It shows a total disregard for the wellbeing of their workers. Qantas are just trying to squeeze workers for every last dollar”, said AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton.

“Qantas has received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from the Federal Government, and now they are trying to weasel their way out of paying workers their sick leave entitlements while they’re stood down. This is a company that will do anything to inflate its budget bottom line at the expense of its workforce”, said AMWU National Assistant Secretary Glenn Thompson.

The Alliance Unions will file an application in the Federal Court that disputes the interpretation of the National Employment Standards with respect to sick leave – also known as personal leave – while employed but stood down.

“Under normal circumstances, if you get sick while you’re on annual leave or long service leave, you can use your sick leave and get your annual or long service leave re-credited. But Qantas is now telling workers who are staring down the barrel of what could be a long period of stand downs that they can’t access their sick leave, even if they contract COVID-19. This is an absolute disgrace, and in our view it is a clear breach of the National Employment Standards (NES). We will be fighting Qantas every step of the way on this”, said ETU National Secretary Allan Hicks.

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