The TWU has welcomed the exemption for truck drivers to pass through the Queensland border when it introduces new vaccination passport restrictions this Friday, but the union says this proves the need for national leadership and vaccination priority for critical transport workers.
The vaccine passport announcement yesterday caused panic among interstate truck drivers, particularly those who own their own trucks and operate as small businesses.
A recent TWU survey showed one in two transport workers is unvaccinated, with around one third saying a key barrier to vaccination was limited availability or appointment times. 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 said national leadership is required to prevent future chaos for transport workers just trying to do their job.
“Communities right across Australia depend on truck drivers for their survival. It is a welcome relief that truck drivers will not be cut off from their important work transporting essential supplies into Queensland from other states. However, this relief is temporary. With ongoing border changes, the transport industry is crying out for national leadership to provide certainty to operators and drivers to just get on with their jobs.
“The critical nature of transport is highlighted through this exemption, but this is at odds with the Federal Government’s failure to acknowledge that these workers are essential and must be prioritised for vaccination.
“Throughout the pandemic, 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.
“It is unsurprising that this chaos is continuing when Scott Morrison continues to overlook these essential workers and refuses to provide a national plan for the transport industry. We implore the Prime Minister to address this immediately so that truck drivers can do their important work safely,” 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.