The Transport Workers’ Union has warned that communities could be cut off from essential supplies like food and medicine as WA and Queensland borders close to unvaccinated transport workers.
The union has renewed its demands for national vaccine priority after a survey revealed one in two transport workers is unvaccinated.
In NSW, only truck drivers living in the hotspot LGAs have been added to vaccine priority lists as of today. Truck drivers in other parts of the state are still not counted as essential workers for vaccination, meaning many interstate drivers will be unable to do their jobs this week.
WA’s vaccination entry requirements come into effect tomorrow for workers travelling from NSW. Queensland will close its border on Friday to NSW workers without a vaccine passport showing that they have received at least one dose.
Around one third of transport workers surveyed identified limited availability or appointment times as key barriers to vaccination, while many noted it was too difficult to book appointments in advance due to irregular work patterns and unknown rosters.
Only 2% of transport workers surveyed were assisted by their employers to get vaccinated, while 90% of truckies have no access to paid vaccination leave.
Confusing border pass information, testing requirements and exposure sites at truck depots have already caused many transport workers to lose out on work.
TWU Assistant National Secretary Nick McIntosh said the Federal Government must act fast to fix this mess.
“This utter chaos is down to Federal Government inaction. Scott Morrison has ignored transport workers’ calls for priority access to vaccines and paid leave provisions to assist them to get their jabs. Now it is hardworking truck drivers and the regional communities that rely on them most that will suffer greatly.
“The Federal Government’s failure to provide national leadership in transport has meant truck drivers have struggled to get vaccinated, have waited hours for covid tests, have been drowned in paperwork to meet ever-changing border requirements, and have struggled to find open truck stops where they can rest, eat and shower.
“Scott Morrison must urgently act to provide national certainty for the transport industry that will keep workers and communities safe while ensuring essential supplies can get where they’re needed.”
TWU NSW Branch Secretary Richard Olsen said truck drivers should not be forced to lose pay when they’ve had little chance to get vaccinated.
“It’s plain and simple: we would not survive without truck drivers. Throughout the pandemic they’ve worked harder than ever to keep our communities stocked with essentials.
“It is disgraceful that drivers in hotspots have only been added to priority lists for vaccination in NSW as of today, despite being at great risk of exposure. Even worse, transport workers in the rest of NSW are still not considered essential for vaccine priority, which means some will be cut off from their jobs. For interstate owner drivers who run on tight margins, this forces them to down tools while still making payments on their trucks. This crisis must be front of mind for the Federal Government. This is an emergency,” he said.
A recent TWU survey also found that one in two aviation workers are not vaccinated against COVID-19, despite recent exposure being linked to returned travellers and cabin crew. Limited appointment availability and inflexible work arrangements were common reasons for being unvaccinated.