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Over 80% of Qantas Workers Say Airline Didn’t Do Enough to Protect Them From COVID-19

Over 80% of Qantas Workers Say Airline Didn’t Do Enough to Protect Them From COVID-19

Qantas Finds Cracks in Three Boeing 737-800 Aircraft Following Urgent FAA Airworthiness Directive

Australian flag carrier Qantas has been accused of not doing enough to protect employees against the threat posed by COVID-19 after 81 per cent of 850 workers surveyed by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) said the airline had not put appropriate safety measures in place. One member of cabin crew said what Qantas was publicly telling the media “was completely opposite to what was happening onboard.”

The worker said they felt so concerned about their safety that they called in sick before eventually being stood down when passenger demand plummeted and Qantas grounded the majority of its planes. Another worker said aircraft continued to do up to four sectors per day without any extra cleaning to combat the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

Photo Credit: Qantas
Photo Credit: Qantas

Instead, the anonymous employee claimed aircraft are only getting a tidy up by the crew between each flight “which basically is just picking up rubbish.” Jetstar planes were said to be even worse with one source claiming the aircraft of Qantas’ low-cost subsidiary, including bathrooms, were only cleaned once per day.

Despite Australia’s apparent success in combatting COVID-19 and the country’s low infection rate, Qantas workers appear to be disproportionately affected by the potentially deadly virus. According to the TWU, at least 60 Qantas employees nationwide have been infected, including 34 in a single cluster centred around the Qantas baggage room at Adelaide airport.

“Qantas repeatedly referred in communications to its workers that the risk of infection and spread was “low”, even comparing the virus to the “seasonal flu”,” the union alleges of Qantas’ approach to the virus.

In response to earlier criticism, Qantas has maintained that the risk of onboard transmission is low and that there is no evidence that any passengers or crew have been infected during a flight.

“Qantas from the start has denied that the virus posed a risk so it wouldn’t have to spend money on protective gear, training staff, giving them extra time to clean equipment, clean themselves and change into protective gear, said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

“It is no wonder that 93% of Qantas workers are worried about their safety at work and it is no wonder that clusters like the one in Adelaide Airport were allowed to occur,” he continued.

Qantas remains under investigation by SafeWork NSW for standing down a cleaner and health and safety rep who raised concerns about safety protection for Qantas employees working on aircraft that had returned from virus hotspots.

The survey also revealed that only 20 per cent of employees had seen equipment and meal areas being disinfected at least once per day. Only 20 per cent had been given additional work time to perform cleaning duties, while 80 per cent said they hadn’t been given enough training on how to deal with the threat posed by COVID-19.

In response to earlier criticism about its approach to the pandemic, Qantas Group Medical Director, Dr Ian Hosegood said clear guidelines had been issued to protect crew and “enhanced measures” were introduced to reduce the risk further.