The Federal Court of Australia has dismissed an appeal from furloughed Qantas workers seeking to be paid sick leave.
The workers, including a man who has been battling cancer and another with heart disease both with over 30 years work at Qantas, alongside the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), took the case to court in April after the airline refused to pay them sick leave during the stand-down period.
The airline won the case in May, with the Federal Court ruling it would not have to pay sick leave to furloughed workers.
Qantas had argued that its 25,000 temporarily stood-down workers could not access paid compassionate, personal or carer’s leave because “there is no work to be absent from”, a spokesperson for the group told Travel Weekly at the time.
This morning, the court dismissed an appeal from the workers on the basis that employees are entitled to sick leave only for hours they would otherwise be required to work, according to court documents seen by Travel Weekly.
The TWU claims some workers have had to take redundancy at Qantas so they could pay their bills and support their families.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas had let its workers down at their most vulnerable time.
“The ruling will devastate these workers, many of whom are battling serious illness and are struggling to pay bills and support their families,” he said.
“Rather than pay sick leave, Qantas is fighting its workers in the courts. These workers have worked hard over many years, they have built up leave and when they fell sick, Qantas has told them they are on their own.
“For a company which last year announced its CEO earned $24 million, this is a slap in the face.”
Qantas said in a statement that COVID-19 and border restrictions have meant the majority of its workers have had no work for months.
“We understand that some employees will be disappointed today, but there’s now been two courts who have confirmed that employees who are stood down are not eligible to receive paid sick leave because there is no work to be absent from,” the statement said.
“This is not just true of Qantas, but across the economy.
“Our employees, whether they were working before COVID or on sick leave, have access to JobKeeper, annual leave and long service leave while they are stood down, and are being provided other support.”
In September, Qantas was found to have misused JobKeeper after refusing to pay workers for the overtime and public holiday work they carried out.
As a result of the ruling, Qantas workers are likely to receive thousands of dollars in back pay.