Amid a confusing and stressful time for many transport workers in Sydney today there was one glimmer of hope: an apparent U-turn from the NSW government with truckies now being allowed to leave the affected local government areas for work.
Road Freight NSW CEO Simon O’Hara said on the association’s Facebook page he’d heard from the Australian and NSW Business Chamber that the Premier had approved the following workers be allowed to leave for work:
“Any person who performs work that is essential for the continued operation of food retailing, warehousing and distribution, transportation (including workers in click and collect call centres).”
TWU NSW and ARTIO NSW have jointly written to the NSW Government calling for clarification that all transport workers are exempt now and in the future from restrictions which would prevent them from carrying out essential work.
When Big Rigs called Transport for NSW today for clarification, however, they were yet to sight a public health order to that affect, asking us to check back in tomorrow.
Confusion from the snap rule changes today, including a pause on all construction work until the end of July, sparked anger with truck drivers holding a protest convoy across the Harbour and Anzac bridges in Sydney.
My brother who works in construction took this video. Construction trucks honking & lined up in protest on City West Link. Similar scenes on the Anzac and Harbour Bridges. This is the first time construction in NSW has been shut down due to the pandemic. Clearly not happy Gladys pic.twitter.com/QV952sv7u5
— Antoinette Lattouf (@antoinette_news) July 17, 2021
TWU NSW Branch Secretary Richard Olsen said the NSW Government should follow Victoria’s lead in deeming transport worker groups as essential.
“We welcome the exemption which reflects the essential work done by transport workers, but we require urgent clarification that all transport workers including those providing critical passenger transport, air freight and waste removal services will not face penalties for going to work,” added Olsen.
“Without this clarification, we will see waste piling up in our streets, passengers stranded at bus stops and freight left unattended at airports.
“The snap announcement today is further evidence of rushed policy change which severely overlooked the essential nature of transport. This oversight must be rectified by the implementation of a standing exemption to ensure transport workers are automatically protected against future snap rule changes and confusing information.
“Transport workers have been the backbone of Australia throughout this pandemic. They’ve kept shelves stocked with essential supplies and got people safely to testing and vaccination centres. They’ve been operating at extreme demand for the last 18 months and they are stressed. We’re calling on the NSW Government to stop blaming and penalising workers for holes in biosecurity and instead allow them to just do their jobs in peace.”
ARTIO NSW Secretary Laurie D’Apice said transport operators were not consulted or forewarned of the tighter restrictions.
“Transport operators within and outside of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown LGAs were thrown into chaos during the NSW Premier’s press conference today,” she said.
“We’re pleased to see that the NSW Government acted quickly to provide an exemption for transport, however the confusing information will still have an impact on transport operations as employers and workers scramble to understand which rules now apply.
“It’s important that this situation be avoided in the future and the way to do that is to categorise transport workers as essential and exempt from snap policy decisions.”