Coronavirus: Airlines sack staff, hundreds of Aussie travellers stranded on cruise ship

Coronavirus: Airlines sack staff, hundreds of Aussie travellers stranded on cruise ship

A Qantas worker has allegedly been fired for giving advice to staff about the coronavirus.

This comes as China Southern Airlines laid off 220 foreign pilots and Cathay Pacific asks its employees to take unpaid leave, due to travel restrictions caused by the virus.

According to a release from the Transport Workers Union (TWU), a worker who is a trained health and safety representative of the airline was stood down for giving advice to colleagues about their rights regarding the coronavirus.

“We are very concerned that airport workers on the frontline of this virus outbreak are being threatened, intimidated and stood down from their jobs rather than being supported and given all the protections they need,” Richard Olsen, TWU NSW branch secretary said.

“We call on Qantas to immediately reinstate the worker who has been stood down and to withdraw letters of intimidation to people who expressed concerns about working on flights from China.

“This is not a time for using bullying workplace tactics.”

Travel Weekly understands the employee who was stood down was a TWU delegate who is being investigated after telling employees it was not safe to work on aircraft arriving from China.

“We would never ask our employees to work in unsafe conditions,” Dr Russell Brown, of Qantas medical said in a statement.

“The TWU knows full well that the risk of aviation workers contracting coronavirus as a result of working on an aircraft originating from China is very low. I briefed them on the situation last week.

“Our medical team is in regular contact with health authorities and is receiving the latest advice from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and the World Health Organisation.

“Additional protective measures are being put in place on flights from China to further reduce the risk of our employees contracting coronavirus and we are providing them with regular updates on the latest health advice.”

Meanwhile, The Australian has reported that China Southern Airlines, China’s biggest airline, informed 220 foreign pilots via WeChat they would be on “non-fixed term leave without pay” due to the reduction in services.

China Southern reportedly cancelled 67 per cent of its flights on Monday.

Cathay Pacific told Travel Weekly in a statement that a significant drop in market demand prompted them to announce massive capacity cuts.

As a result, the airline is calling on its 27,000 employees to participate in a special leave scheme taking effect from 1 March until 30 June where they will be given the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave.

“Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this,” the airline said.

Aussies trapped on Diamond Princess

Two Australians were among the ten passengers with confirmed coronavirus diagnoses onboard Diamond Princess yesterday, according to ABC News.

On Wednesday, Princess Cruises told Travel Weekly the ship, which is docked in Yokohama, Japan, would remain in quarantine for 14 days while those diagnosed with the virus would be transferred to a Japanese hospital.

The cruise line told ABC News there was a total of 223 Australians among the nearly 4,000 people onboard the ship.

“The 10 people have been notified and will be taken ashore by Japanese Coast Guard watercraft and transported to local hospitals for care by shoreside Japanese medical professionals,” the cruise line said.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told ABC News the situation was complex.

“There are issues around crews, cruise liners, crews on cargo ships, for example, being met by pilots or food being transferred on to those ships where you’ve had a crew that’s come out of this province or somewhere else in China that’s at risk,” Dutton said.

“My understanding is if they’ve been in isolation for 14 days, on that boat, and people who have presented with the virus have been removed from that setting, then I think they can come back.

“I think we’ll have a look at the individual cases, and DFAT has done a great job at looking at the individual cases and the nuance of each family unit and how we can help those people.”

Christmas Island concerned over bad publicity 

Christmas Island locals are concerned that while the island’s tourism sector has suffered an image problem from its use as a detention centre, its use as a quarantine may be the final nail in the coffin for its chances of a tourism revival.

Christmas Island Shire President Gordon Thomson told ABC News the island was now at risk of being seen as a home for illness.

“It was an island of incarceration when the refugees were being locked up here and that was ruinous, and when the operation was in full swing tourism just died, because there were no hotel rooms for tourists who might want to come,” he said.

“Although this will be very short term, the publicity for Christmas Island isn’t about it as a tourist destination, it’s about people being incarcerated here for whatever reason.”

Featured image credit: iStock/powerofforever

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