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Two Canberra security guards who raised legitimate health-and-safety questions about a Covid-19 case who transited through Canberra Airport have been stood aside by their employer pending a disciplinary hearing.

“Two airport security guards fulfilling their role as health-and-safety representatives at the airport have been threatened by their employer for daring to ask questions about  a Covid-19 case who attended their work site,” United Workers Union property services director Lyndal Ryan said today.

“Canberra Airport and its security contractor Certis Security have to be condemned in the strongest terms for a reaction that is likely to be completely unlawful.”

Two health-and-safety representatives employed by Certis Security wrote to Canberra Airport Group on Thursday, after reports emerged this week that a Covid-19 case travelled through the airport on October 7.

Their letter requested information about the incident under the consultation provisions of the Work Health and Safety Act – section 70 (1) (c) – which makes it an obligation for companies to talk to health and safety representatives about issues relating to workplace safety.

The letter notes Certis Security screening officers had not been informed about the incident, asked whether other airport staff had been informed, what cleaning had occurred and when Canberra Airport was notified.

On Friday, Certis Security’s ACT Aviation Security Manager wrote to the two guards, standing them aside and telling them to attend a formal meeting on Monday.

Ms Ryan said: “It is every worker’s right to be safe in their workplace, and the Act gives health and safety representatives wide powers to ensure their workplaces are safe.

“Yet when these elected representatives even dare to request facts relevant to their health and safety – after being deprived of those facts by their own employer – the kneejerk reaction is stand downs and formal interviews.

“Surely Canberra Airport couldn’t seriously suggest this is the right way to keep its staff and customers safe?

“We need three things to happen to address this grievous wrongdoing:

“One, we need the Health and Safety Commissioner to urgently meet with the health and safety representatives and seek discussion with both Certis Security and Canberra Airport Group to ensure that the workers are returned to their duties and all threats to their employment are removed.

“Two, and at the same time, we need the Health and Safety Commissioner to launch an investigation into whether these actions are unlawful.

“And three, if these actions are unlawful and wrongly stifle the roles of health and safety representatives attempting to keep their workplace safe during Covid-19, Canberra Airport and Certis Security should be punished to the full extent of the law.”