Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is suing Jetstar alleging it contravened Australian workplace laws when it hired trainee pilots who were New Zealanders.

The work the pilots performed was exclusively in Australia but the airline erroneously told the trainees their employment was governed by New Zealand laws, not Australian laws, during the training period, the FWO said.

It alleges Qantas-owned Jetstar sought to have the six New Zealanders hired pay the cost of their training, despite this being prohibited under the Australian Air Pilots Award.

The pilots reimbursed Jetstar A$17,500 between June and September 2011 before the practice ceased and the money refunded in November 2011. FWO also alleges Jetstar didn't pay the trainees superannuation, a requirement under Australian employment law, during the training period.


"Multi-national companies with wholly or partly-owned overseas enterprises need to exercise caution and care if they engage workers under those entities and then have them work in Australia," ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said.

The FWO is alleging multiple breaches and seeking penalties. The maximum penalty faced by both Jetstar and its New Zealand subsidiary is A$33,000 per breach.

Jetstar said it will defend the claims and has already paid cadets any shortfall between New Zealand and Australian superannuation as a gesture of goodwill.

The case is due to be heard in Australia's Federal Court in Sydney on April 27.

Wilson said his inspectors continue to investigate allegations that Jetstar had underpaid foreign cabin crew working on its Australian domestic flights.