A Federal Court judge has dismissed a union-led bid to have Qantas workers paid sick leave during the coronavirus crisis.
Some 20,000-odd Qantas workers stood down in mid-March have been able to legally access some entitlements, including annual leave, but they have been prevented from accessing sick, carers’ and compassionate leave.
Among them are a man battling cancer and another awaiting a triple bypass, the Transport Workers Union claims. Both have worked at Qantas for more than 30 years.
But, Justice Geoffrey Flick backed the company’s position.
On Monday, he agreed with Qantas that the stand-down power served two important purposes: Offering businesses financial relief and protecting workers from termination.
Allowing staff to access sick leave while lawfully stood down because there was no work would “go against the very object and purpose of conferring those entitlements – namely an entitlement to be relieved from the work which the employee was otherwise required to perform”, Justice Flick said.
“If there is no work available to be performed by the employee, there is no income and no protection against that which has not been lost.”
The judge said to expose Qantas to a liability to pay leave entitlements after lawfully standing down workers would defeat one of the purposes of the move – namely to protect the employer against such claims.
The TWU said it was “looking to appeal” the decision.
“The ruling is bitterly disappointing for Qantas workers battling serious illnesses and their families, who are enduring worries about their finances at a difficult time in their lives,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.
“This is about justice and the fact that workers who are battling serious illnesses should be allowed to draw down the significant sick leave they have accrued through years of hard work at Qantas.”