Transport workers dangerously exposed to Covid-19 with reports of workers asked to return while still Covid-positive, or symptomatic, close contacts told not to test before returning to work, and workplaces not cleaned after positive cases.
Those are just a few of the shocking revelations from a new survey by the Transport Workers’ Union of almost 2500 workers in freight, logistics, distribution centres, passenger transport, waste, food delivery and aviation.
One respondent said: “I tested positive again after six days of isolation and was told I don’t need to do a test after seven days and can return to work! I refused as I still had symptoms.”
Another said they were, “pressured to work even though I could barely drive the bus. I refused to work the next day because I tested positive.”
A third reported being “harassed by phone calls and messages from management telling me to go back ASAP, but I was still unwell.”
The union said other concerning themes included workers losing pay or being criticised for fulfilling isolation requirements, management not informing workers they’d worked in close quarters with covid-positive colleagues, and casual workers feeling pressured to work while possibly infectious because they have no sick leave.
The union said it is now writing to supply chain clients like Apple, Aldi and Amazon, and state governments who oversee bus and waste contracts, calling on them to take a stand against any positive worker being asked to return to work. They must also ensure risk assessments and covid-safe plans are urgently put in place.
TWU national assistant Secretary Nick McIntosh said the relaxing of isolation rules has sent a dangerous signal to put workplace health and safety at the bottom of the pile.
“Transport workers are reporting being called to return to work while still Covid-positive or symptomatic to fulfil transport contracts with wealthy supply chain clients. This is a blatant prioritisation of profits over safety,” said McIntosh.
“Transport workers who’ve kept us going throughout the pandemic say they’re being told not to bother testing when most likely carrying the virus, and are forced to work in unclean, unsafe environments without even being informed when colleagues test positive.
“These alarming safety violations will only grow in number and severity if the economic powers overseeing transport contracts do not put a stop to this appalling behaviour in their supply chains.”
Despite their increased risk of virus exposure, the survey found three quarters of workers had not yet received their booster vaccination.
Almost 30 per cent of respondents were not yet eligible for the booster, owing to the federal government not prioritising essential transport workers in the initial rollout, while other workers couldn’t get the time off to get boosted and recover from symptoms without losing pay, a union statement said.
The survey also revealed 90 per cent of respondents did not want to work alongside close contacts and 96 per cent want access to free rapid antigen tests.