Ex-Woolies exec to head up Virgin’s corporate affairs unit – Australian Aviation

Virgin Australia’s lineup at Melbourne Tullamarine at the start of the pandemic. (Victor Pody)

Virgin Australia has reportedly secured a new chief of corporate affairs over nine months after the previous leader, Moksha Watts, resigned amid an internal review into her workplace behavior.

According to a report by The Australianformer Woolworths chief reputation officer Christian Bennett is set to take over the role shortly.

It is not known exactly what sparked the investigation into Watts’ behavior, however in a note to staff announcing Watts’ departure, Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka promised that “grievances of any nature will be taken seriously” and that the airline would “follow due process in investigating in order to be fair to everyone involved”.

Watts’ resignation came after Virgin had suffered a “significant turnover of staff” in the corporate affairs department.

According to Hrdlicka’s memo, Watts came to the decision herself to resign “in the midst of an ongoing international review into her workplace behavior”.

“She felt it was in her best interests and the best interests of the company to resign,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, Bennett joins the role after spending nearly five years with the Woolworths group. He previously held senior vice president positions at General Electric and BHP, and spent many years at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade earlier in his career.

Watts’ curious exit from the airline marked the beginning of a string of incidents that earlier this year raised new questions about Virgin’s workplace culture.

In April, the airline’s group medical officer, Sara Souter, took stress leave from her role at the height of last year’s lockdown before joining rival Qantas. Souter’s months-long leave period began just days after a Virgin cabin crew member tested positive for COVID-19 after working on five flights.

Around the same time, Virgin’s former chief pilot Michael Fitzgerald sparked legal action against the airline, stating the business violated his workplace rights by terminating his contract while he was on extended sick leave, while simultaneously accusing Jayne Hrdlicka of “bullying and harassment”. Virgin told Australian Aviation it “unequivocally” denies Fitzgerald’s allegations and said it would be “vigorously defending the matter”.

Virgin later had to publicly defend its corporate culture in light of such revelations.

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