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Fighting for sick leave entitlements for members at Qantas

May 4, 2020

The Federal Court is expected to make a decision in the next two weeks over Qantas’ refusal to pay sick and carers leave to stood down members.

The Australian Workers’ Union and members of the Qantas Engineers Alliance Union appeared in court this week via video link in a bid to overturn the Qantas decision.

Lawyers representing the Alliance Unions, (The AWU, The Electrical Trades Union and The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union) argued that since stood down workers were allowed to legally access all other forms of leave during the stand down, Qantas must pay out sick and carers leave in line with the Fair Work Act.

Qantas claimed that Alliance members are not eligible to receive sick leave whilst stood down because the entitlement is ‘dependent on there being work for employees to be absent from, which is not the case during the period of stand-down”.

In a submission Alliance Union lawyer Mark Gibian SC wrote:

“If Qantas were correct that an employee has no ordinary hours during a stand-down period, no form of leave would be able to be taken during such a period.

“That is obviously not correct and not a position advanced by Qantas. The approach of Qantas cannot be reconciled with the [Fair Work] Act as a whole.”

The Alliance Unions also argued it is in breach of the National Employment Standards.

Statements were submitted by union members who urgently need to draw on their accrued sick leave. One member, who has been with Qantas for 35 years, revealed his frustration at not being able to access his entitlements while waiting for a triple bypass. Another member, currently fighting cancer, also revealed the “significant pressure” this was placing on him and his family.

Thousands of Qantas workers are currently drawing on annual and long-service leave as well as accessing long service leave and leave in advance. Being able to access sick and carers leave could be a lifeline for many members and is their legal entitlement.

A decision is expected to be issued within two weeks but Alliance Unions are confident their arguments met the legal test.

There has never been a more important time to be a member of your union – so please do all you can to encourage your fellow workers to stand with us and join the AWU today

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