Australian airline Qantas in court for sacking Greek health & safety worker over Covid-19


Australian airline Qantas is in court over the sacking of Greek Australian Theo Seremetidis, the company's health and safety worker was stood down in February 2020 after advising workers they had a right to refuse unsafe work over Covid-19 concerns at the beginning of the pandemic, reports the ABC.

According to the news report, Qantas is accused of engaging in discriminatory conduct after Theo Seremetidis was let go for expressing concerns about workers' potential exposure to the virus by cleaning and servicing planes arriving from China and fired him for "creating anxiety amongst the workforce".

On Monday, Crown prosecutor, Patricia McDonald SC, told the court when cleaners raised concerns about becoming infected, their employer told them the risk was "negligible" and they could not "be reasonably concerned about contracting the virus".

Mr Seremetidis advised colleagues of their legal right to refuse any unsafe work, the court heard.

On February 2, in a meeting with Qantas managers, he was stood down until further notice for "directing workers to cease unsafe work and that is creating anxiety amongst the workforce".

The court heard Mr Seremetidis, who is expected to give evidence on Tuesday, was told to leave the premises immediately and that an internal investigation would be conducted.

In his opening address, Qantas defence solicitor Bruce Hodgkinson told the court that, at the time, "the risk [of contracting COVID-19] outside of China was very low".

He said this criminal case should be viewed "without the benefit of hindsight" instead "what was known at the relevant time".

Mr Hodgkinson noted COVID-19 wasn't considered a pandemic by the World Health Organisation until March 11, more than a month after Mr Seremetidis was stood down.

SafeWork NSW filed charges against the airline for allegedly breaching the Work Health and Safety Act in October 2021.

The hearing before Judge David Russell is expected to run for two weeks.