A reckless decision to wind back close contact isolation requirements for asymptomatic transport workers will threaten the health and safety of workers and exacerbate disruption within the supply chain, says the Transport Workers Union, as it calls on the prime minister to meet with concerned unions.
NSW Health’s decision to wind back self-isolation requirements for close contacts who work in critical industries like food logistics means employers will be able to prioritise operational matters over the safety of workers. The union is urging the prime minister to include unions in an urgent supply chain meeting scheduled for Sunday afternoon to properly hear their concerns.
“Scrapping isolation requirements for transport workers is beyond reckless – workers are being thrown to the wolves by a government that continues to ignore all the warnings,” said Michael Kaine, National Secretary of TWU.
“We know even if you’re asymptomatic you can still spread the virus. Requiring potentially sick people to go to work won’t make supply chains healthy. Sick drivers won’t get stock onto supermarket shelves any faster but it will certainly help the virus hitch a ride across Australia.”
The decision requires asymptomatic close contacts to wear masks and take daily rapid antigen tests, but the union says RATs alone don’t offer enough protection as they won’t pick up every COVID-19 case.
“Someone who is a close contact is by definition the greatest risk of passing it on – the NSW government is effectively scrapping the last buffer we had left to protect workplaces.
“To rebuild a healthy workforce we need to have isolation requirements and rapid testing working together – we can’t have one without the other. Testing combined with precautionary isolation is our best defence against this virus.
“The TWU wrote to the Prime Minister and National Cabinet in September and October urging governments to provide rapid tests to road transport workers to avoid unnecessary delays and keep drivers on the road.
“Instead, we have a completely predictable scenario where drivers are delivering rapid tests to be sold on the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies – but they, like most Australians, can’t access them themselves.”