In early 2020, Qantas, an Australian airline, will be prosecuted over the responsibilities of plane cleaners.
After objecting about cleaning methods on planes arriving from China, a worker was forced to leave his job.
SafeWork NSW has accused Qantas of discrimination for withholding compensation from a worker who expressed concerns about staff exposure to Covid.
The cleaner, meanwhile, is being investigated by Qantas for “attempting to encourage unprotected industrial action,” according to the airline.
The prosecution was dubbed a “landmark for workplace health and safety” by a union.
The Safety Issues
When the Covid epidemic broke out, cleaner Theo Seremetidis was an elected health and safety representative at Qantas.
He told an Australian Senate committee last week that Qantas’ safety measures were insufficient: “We were ordered to clean planes with simply water.” He stated, “There is no sanitiser for the trays, no sanitiser for anything.”
“Despite supervisors wearing HAZMAT suits, PPE was not required. We didn’t even get disinfectant or masks.
“Workers in Australia, and more widely, were exposed to severe risks of contracting and transmitting Covid as a result of these safety problems,” he continued.
“I was really concerned about safety and wanted to see all of my coworkers get home safely every day.”
Mr. Seremetidis claims that concerns made with management were ignored, and that as a result, he ordered a group of employees to quit working.
“I was promptly stepped down on the day this happened. My final day at Qantas was the day I was stood down.”
The airline is being prosecuted by the NSW workers’ safety authority, SafeWork NSW, for allegedly engaging in discriminatory behavior.
“No additional information can be supplied at this time since the issue is before the court,” a SafeWork spokeswoman said.
“The prosecution is the first of its type anywhere in Australia,” said Richard Olsen of the Transport Workers Union, which filed the complaint.
“Qantas fired Theo for attempting to protect himself and his coworkers from Covid, and the business is now facing criminal accusations as a result.”
“There are established, legal processes for health and safety representatives to follow if they have concerns,” the airline stated, adding that Mr Seremetidis did not follow the right protocol for the industrial action he conducted.
“If our workers have safety concerns, Qantas supports and encourages them to use these channels.”
“It’s worth mentioning that on our way back from China, we didn’t have a single positive Covid case.”