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Call for Covid testing hubs and ‘flying squads’ for Sydney truckies

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Peak body Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) and the Transport Workers Union are lobbying the state government to fast-track the Covid testing of Sydney truckies impacted by the latest health orders.

From this Saturday, Fairfield residents who work elsewhere in the city must undergo mandatory testing every three days. Workers who move between Greater Sydney and regional NSW are requried to get a weekly test, even if they don’t have symptoms.

RFNSW CEO Simon O’Hara said the use of testing ‘flying squads’, visiting local transport companies, would alleviate the need for drivers to wait for hours in chaotic queues and lose critical hours off the road and also ensure the safety of the community through this latest outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

“If it’s good enough for our politicians to get tested at Parliament House, then it’s good enough for truckies to get tested at their workplaces,” O’Hara said.

“Our members will certainly abide by the new testing orders, but if truckies are to continue their role as essential workers, delivering food, groceries and medicines, then the government must better support testing regimes for them.

“RFNSW has already had reports of some truckies turning up to work late today after waiting for four-hours to get tested in those chaotic queues in and around Fairfield. This simply won’t be sustainable for local business operators, who will now lose drivers and other essential staff every three days. Effectively, we’ll see the working week slashed to three to four days and local transport businesses want to know who’ll be footing the bill for this lost time and lost productivity.

“Given that the health and safety of our workforce is a priority for our industry, we also can’t expect truck drivers who’ve worked a 12-hour shift to then go out and get tested every three days – that’s a serious fatigue risk that clearly hasn’t been taken into account.”

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is writing to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian over the alarm among workers in the scramble to get tested after a new health order was released yesterday.

The TWU wants to see testing hubs at airports, truck stops, bus depots, taxi and rideshare stops and where delivery riders congregate for work. The union also wants better consultation ahead of any public health orders affecting transport workers being released.

TWU NSW branch secretary Richard Olsen said there has been chaos in the last 24 hours for transport workers trying to comply with the new order.

“This has been a shambles for transport workers battling to do their jobs and comply with the testing order,” Olsen said.

“It is not acceptable that we have truck drivers, bus drivers, aviation workers, rideshare drivers, delivery drivers and others sitting waiting in queues at centres overnight and then having to go to work today.

“Many truck drivers and bus drivers out in the regions and doing inter-state work don’t even know where they can get tested and if they can do so safely without breaching fatigue rules.

“We are calling for testing hubs in or close to places of work and better consultation when strict rules like this come into place.

“The NSW government must make ensure that essential workers are not hampered going about their work and that there is as little stress on them as possible. It’s hard enough being out on the frontline during a frightening outbreak of a deadly viral strain while most people can stay at home without having additional burdens placed on them.”

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