Qantas guilty of illegal worker treatment

The NSW District Court found Qantas acted unlawfully when suspending a worker who refused to clean planes at the start of the pandemic.
Qantas and the District Court

The NSW District Court has ruled Qantas acted unlawfully when it suspended a health and safety worker at the start of the pandemic.

In 2020, Qantas worker Theo Seremetidis warned colleagues against cleaning planes arriving from COVID hotspots without proper training or equipment. He was eventually stood down from his job.

Today, the NSW District Court ruled Qantas’ decision to stand down Seremetidis was illegal.

Qantas and the District Court

Seremetidis was suspended from his Qantas job at Sydney International Airport in February 2020, and told not to come back to work until an internal investigation was completed. When borders closed in March 2020 he was one of 20,000 Qantas workers who were stood down. The investigation was then paused.

SafeWork NSW later charged Qantas with a breach of anti-discrimination laws. It argued Seremetidis was within his rights to refuse cleaning the planes, and that he was fulfilling his role as a health and safety representative.

District Court decision

The NSW District Court agreed with SafeWork, saying it had proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that Seremetidis acted within his rights.

Qantas is yet to be handed a punishment for its misconduct, which will be decided at a subsequent hearing.

Qantas’ response

Qantas has said they will “review the judgment before commenting on it further”.

The Transport Workers’ Union called the decision a “fantastic result”.

TWU President Richard Olsen said Seremetidis “always acted diligently” as a health and safety worker, and that today’s decision had vindicated his decisions at the start of the pandemic.

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