Qantas charged for standing down health and safety worker, Theo Seremetidis

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Qantas is facing criminal prosecution for standing down a worker who raised concerns about contracting COVID-19 from aircraft arriving from China at the start of the pandemic, the ABC reports.

Theo Seremetidis, who was an aircraft cleaner and trained health and safety representative, was told not to come to work from February 7, 2020 after he directed some workers to “cease unsafe work.”

Mr Seremetidis, who worked for Qantas for nearly seven years, said he raised concerns about cleaning staff not having adequate personal protective equipment, even masks, to use while working on planes that had arrived from China in early 2020.

“At the start of the pandemic, we were directed to clean planes with just water, no sanitiser,” Mr Seremetidis told a Senate committee on job security this month.

“And I asked for PPE and risk assessments but everything was declined.”

Qantas has denied those claims, insisting all workers were provided with masks, gloves and gowns and using strong cleaning products, not “just water.”

But SafeWork NSW has now filed charges against Qantas in the District Court for allegedly breaching the Work Health and Safety Act.

“The proceedings are first listed before the District Court on Monday, December 6,” a spokesman for SafeWork NSW told The Daily Telegraph.

“As the matter is before the court, no further information can be provided at this time.”

Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Work Health and Safety, Sophie Cotsis, said this verdict shows employers must not ignore safety concerns raised by work, health and safety representatives.

“Rather than being penalised, any worker who identifies a workplace health and safety risk should be commended for protecting their colleagues from any potential harm and their employers from any liability,” Ms Cotsis said in a media release.

If the charges are upheld, Qantas could face significant financial penalties with each Work Health and Safety breach attracting a maximum fine of $594,021.

Mr Seremeditis is also taking legal action against Qantas in the Federal Court over his alleged mistreatment.

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