Qantas denies claims that it uses S’pore prisoners to clean its planes

Sydney Morning Herald
13 Mar 07

Qantas has categorically denied claims that Changi prisoners on day release are being used to clean its aircraft in Singapore.

Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association [ALAEA] federal secretary Steve Purvinas today claimed that prisoners have been employed to clean the flight deck of Qantas jets ahead of safety inspections.

“The prisoners are released under supervision and taken to the Qantas aircraft,” Mr Purvinas told a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of the potential sale of Qantas on its budget subsidiary Jetstar.

“The prisoners are used to wash down the wheel well bays before inspections, they’re used to go upstairs into the flight deck of the aircraft and to clean the area out so it’s ready for inspection by the local engineers.”

Mr Purvinas told that his accusations stemmed from two reports the ALAEA had received over the past 18 months, including one late last year from an ALAEA member who claimed to have witnessed prisoners, wearing different coloured uniforms to those of other maintenance staff, cleaning a Qantas plane.

He said the prisoners were being supervised by a licensed engineer who could certify everything was in place following the completion of their work.

However, such a situation would not take place in Australia, he said.

“They wouldn’t have the same level of training as someone carrying out that function in Australia.

“The people in Australia who carry out those exact same functions are generally long term employees who are aware of the components they are cleaning and preparing for maintenance checks.”

He said the prisoner workforce would have been supplied through a contractor.

“It’s not Qantas directly who employees any of these staff. It purchases a service from a third party and the third party provides the labour and carries out the job.” 

He said it may be the case that prisoners no longer clean Qantas aircraft in Singapore.

Qantas has described Mr Purvinas’s claims to the parliamentary inquiry as “outrageous”.

“This is an outrageous accusation which we categorically deny,” said David Cox, the executive general manager of Qantas Engineering.

“No prisoners in Singapore have access to any Qantas aircraft undergoing heavy maintenance,” he said.

“This is one of several inaccuracies contained in the ALAEA Union’s submission.”

Changi Prison houses Singapore’s most serious criminal offenders, including those sentenced to death.

Initiated by the Senate, the inquiry is looking at a bill proposed by Family First Senator Stephen Fielding which aims to offer the same protections to Jetstar that are offered to Qantas under the Qantas Sale Act.

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