AIRLINE cabin crew recruited in Thailand have allegedly been staffing domestic routes in Australia for Jetstar - for half the cost of the budget airline's local staff.
The Gillard government's workplace ombudsman yesterday took the airline to the Federal Court, saying the pay rate offered to the eight workers involved is not good enough. The legal action may ultimately involve 300 international cabin crew rostered across Jetstar's domestic routes.
Jetstar yesterday refuted the claims and a spokeswoman said that it would contest them vigorously when the matter went to court in August.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also arguing that the practice of using Asian-owned companies that recruit cabin crew to work exclusively for Jetstar on international and domestic flights should be banned.
Singapore company Valuair Limited and Thai company Tour East Limited - which recruit crew exclusively for Jetstar on international and domestic flights - are both accused of the practice. Both firms are part-owned by Qantas.
The Fair Work Ombudsman wants Valuair and Tour East to reimburse the eight cabin crew more than $7500 it alleges they are owed in back pay. It also wants the Federal Court to fine Jetstar.
It says the cabin crew employees are entitled to be paid under the Aircraft Cabin Crew Award 2010 and not the wage they would be entitled to in Asia.
The ombudsman's writ alleges that Jetstar's contracts with Valuair and Tour East give the airline power to control the cabin crew members' salary, performance reviews and rostering. Jetstar Airways was also allegedly involved in interviewing and recruiting the workers in Singapore and Thailand.
In April, the ombudsman began action against Jetstar for allegedly hiring trainee pilots from New Zealand on individual contracts, not paying superannuation and charging them for training in Australia.
Jetstar released a statement yesterday that said while it did not use overseas-based crew on purely domestic flights, it did use a mix of Australian-based and overseas-based crew on international services.
"These crew are paid based on the terms and conditions in the country in which they are employed - whether they are flying in Singapore, Thailand, or Australia," the statement said.
A directions hearing for the case is listed for August 17.