Qantas workers have opened a legal fight with the airline over its refusal to pay them sick leave.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) told nine.com.au in a statement the Federal Court case includes a worker battling cancer and another awaiting surgery for a triple bypass.
Qantas is breaching provisions of the Fair Work Act, the TWU claims.
The national carrier has stood down 20,000 workers after its international and domestic routes were destroyed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Qantas argues its workers need to be at work in order to be eligible for sick pay.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine called the move by Qantas “heartless”.
“It is an utter disgrace that Qantas workers, some of whom have worked with the company for several decades and are now battling very serious illnesses, have been refused sick leave in this way.”
Mr Kaine said the airline’s refusal to pay sick leave “will pile pressures and stress” on affected workers.
A Qantas spokesperson said coronavirus travel restrictions had left a “devastating impact” on airlines and this had created “a very difficult time” for all its employees.
Most Qantas employees have been stood down and not are receiving regular income, the spokesperson said, “whether that’s normal pay or paid sick leave.”
“Employees who are stood down are not eligible to receive paid sick leave because there is no work for employees to be absent from but they can access annual, long service leave and other support.”
Eligible Qantas employees have been able to access JobKeeper payments and draw down on holiday and long leave entitlements.
The Federal Court has finished hearing the case and is considering its judgment.