It’s difficult to get hired on as an employee in many professions in Australia because it’s so difficult to get fired, and because benefits can be so generous. Frequently workers are taken on as contractors rather than employees.
Qantas has learned this over and over, for instance when a flight attendant was awarded six months’ pay because the government determined it was ‘harsh’ to fire him after he was found with “a can and a bottle of beer in his jacket, two 50ml bottles of vodka in his trousers and a 50ml bottle of gin in his bag” as he got off a flight. Qantas accused him of stealing and lying about it, but in Australia that’s just a way to get half a year’s pay without working.
However Australia’s Fair Work Commission recently upheld the dismissal of a flight attendant who showed up drunk to work after 14 cocktails, but claimed he shouldn’t be held responsible because he was tempted by a bar’s drink specials and because he followed the airline’s instructions to fly home rather than working his assigned flight after being hospitalized.
And now Qantas is on a downright roll with victories in their ability to let go of employees in the most egregious of cases. Paddle Your Own Kanoo reports that the firing of a flight attendant for drinking a quarter liter of vodka while working a flight, getting drunk, and lying was justified. Apparently though getting drunk on vodka alone wouldn’t have been sufficient, however.
- On July 25, 2018 the flight attendant was scheduled to work Sydney – Johannesburg flight QF63 in a premium cabin.
- Colleagues suspected her of getting drunk inflight and reported her. On arrival she failed a breath test so was suspended with pay.
- She “admitted to drinking around a quarter of a litre vodka that she had mixed with soda water.”
During the trial, Warr said she started drinking the vodka from around mid-way through the flight right up to the last hour, hiding in the front galley in an attempt avoid detection.
- However she claimed the vodka came from duty free, rather than being stolen on board. She thought she could get away with the drinking if it had been her own bottle.
- She challenged her dismissal arguing that she shouldn’t be held responsible for her conduct due to problems in her marriage. She hadn’t wanted to work the flight but “did not want to let down her colleagues” so really she was an exemplary employee who should be lauded, not fired.
- Her union argued that firing her for getting drunk and lying in the subsequent investigation was disproportionate. After all, Qantas flight attendants are trained to lie to customers if it helps them provide better service.
Qantas flight attendants don’t even need to engage the services of the Saturday Night Live law firm of Green & Fazio.