Court fines Qantas fined for breaking workplace laws

22 August 2012

The Federal Magistrates Court has fined Qantas and one of its managers a total of $15,400 for unlawfully coercing an engineer who complained about staff conditions.

In a judgement handed down last Wednesday 15 August 2012, the Court determined that Qantas and an individual manager Peter Cawthorne had tried to intimidate engineer Luke Murray out of complaints he had lawfully lodged, regarding a posting to Japan in 2009.

Earlier this year, the Full Court of the Federal Court held that Qantas management victimised Mr Murray by cancelling all international postings for Brisbane-based Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (LAME), and in the process, removed the possibility of Mr Murray accessing a further posting.

Principal of Maurice Blackburn's Industrial Law section, Giri Sivaraman, who prosecuted the case on behalf of Mr Murray and the union, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers said it was unusual for an individual manager to be fined. The company was fined $13,200 and Mr Cawthorne $2,200.

"The Court found the breach to be significant. The unlawful conduct involved senior management and the overall contrition of Qantas was not impressive. The Court found a strong case that Qantas needed to be deterred from doing this again," said Mr Sivaraman

"Not even the largest employers are above the law."

"We are pleased that the court recognises that workers must be free to exercise their legal rights to question working conditions, without fear of reprisal."

"This case is an example of the Fair Work Act doing what it is supposed to do - protecting workers, no matter what their rank or status, when they raise legitimate grievances and inquiries," said Mr Sivaraman.

On 23 March 2011, the Federal Magistrate's Court found that Qantas had taken adverse action against Mr Murray by cancelling postings and that Qantas management had unlawfully coerced Mr Murray into not exercising his lawful right to raise work issues. Qantas appealed to the Full Court of the Federal Court, asserting that Federal Magistrate Raphael got it wrong. The original decision was upheld.

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