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Qantas worker scores payout after airline’s unbelievable act

A Qantas employee has been awarded compensation by the airline after being fired for raising safety concerns at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Theo Seremetidis, a trained health and safety representative, was stood down by Qantas in February 2020 and isolated from his colleagues.

Qantas’ actions towards Seremetidis came hours after he told others to stop cleaning and maintaining planes amid concerns about the spread of Covid-19.

Seremetidis’ directive came the day after Australia closed its borders to direct flights from China.

Qantas has since agreed to pay damages after the airline was found guilty of breaching workplace health and safety laws last year.

Theo Seremetidis (pictured) was stood down by Qantas and isolated from other employees. He wasn’t even allowed to go to the staff room to fill his water bottle

The trained health and safety representative had instructed staff not to clean or maintain aircraft due to concerns about the spread of COVID in February 2020

The trained health and safety representative had instructed staff not to clean or maintain aircraft due to concerns about the spread of COVID in February 2020

Qantas agreed to pay $6,000 for Mr Seremetidis’ economic loss, as well as $15,000 for “pain and humiliation.”

However, the court has yet to determine whether the national carrier is liable for fines, compensation and costs.

Seremetidis’ case is the first in which a major airline has been criminally prosecuted for violating workplace safety regulations.

At the time, the Qantas employee told staff not to clean aircraft under Section 85 of the Work Health and Safety Act, which gives workers the right to stop unsafe work.

The court heard that the decision to resign Mr Seremetidis went to the “upper echelons” of Qantas Ground Services and parent company Qantas.

“They all held positions of substantial power over Mr. Seremetidis,” prosecutor Matthew Moir said.

Mr Moir said Qantas was prioritizing its commercial and operational interests over the health and safety of its employees.

Mr Seremetidis (pictured with TWU chapter assistant secretary Marija Marsic) has been awarded $6,000 by Qantas for economic loss, as well as $15,000 for 'pain and humiliation'

Mr Seremetidis (pictured with TWU chapter assistant secretary Marija Marsic) has been awarded $6,000 by Qantas for economic loss, as well as $15,000 for ‘pain and humiliation’

When Mr Seremetidis was fired, he was immediately cut off from other staff and told he could not even leave to fill his water bottle in the staff dining room, the court heard.

“He was removed from the workplace and not allowed to return,” Moir said.

Qantas later submitted a letter outlining several reasons why it had suspended the health and safety representative from his role.

However, Judge David Russell said in his November decision that the letter was a failed attempt to find more reasons to support the airline’s behavior.

“I have discovered that the reason why QGS engaged in discriminatory behavior towards Mr Seremetidis was because he exercised a power or held a position as a health and safety representative,” he said.

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