The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) yesterday launched legal action against Jetstar, which allegedly hired trainee pilots from New Zealand on individual contracts to work in Australia but did not pay them under the Australian award or pay them superannuation.
The legal action has been brought against the Australian companies Jetstar Airways and Jetstar Group and New Zealand entity Jetstar Airways. In a statement, workplace ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said trouble can arise when multinational companies with wholly or partly owned overseas enterprises engage workers under those entities and then have them work in Australia. “To do so can expose the companies to potential penalties and liabilities, particularly if those arrangements persist for a period of time and the terms and conditions their employees are engaged under are less than provided for by Australian law,” Wilson said.
It is being alleged in court that Jetstar Airways breached workplace laws when it hired the trainee pilots on individual contracts in New Zealand, when it was foreseeable they would work predominantly in Australia. The six pilots involved in this case were recruited between October 2010 and January 2011 and given six months training in Australia under the airline's cadet program, according to documents lodged in the Federal Court.
But the trainees were told their employment was governed by New Zealand laws, not Australian laws, during the cadet training period, and were engaged on individual employment contracts, FWO also alleges. Wilson claims the trainee pilots were covered by the 2010 Australian Air Pilots Award while working exclusively in Australia.
The papers lodged with the court say the six pilots were asked by Jetstar to repay the cost of their training – a total of $17,500 between June and September 2011 – before the practice ceased and the money was returned to them in November 2011. In addition, the airline is also being accused of failing to pay the pilots superannuation during the training period.
Wilson said Fair Work inspectors were continuing to investigate separate allegations that Jetstar Airways had systematically underpaid foreign crew working on Australian domestic flights.
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