Unions demand new COVID safety plans and free RATs
The ACTU has vowed to ‘keep working people safe’ if Scott Morrison won’t, calling for free for RAT tests for all workers, improved masks, fixing close contact definitions and restoring support for businesses. The ACTU has also not ruled out strike action if the situation calls for it.
“Unions will take whatever steps are necessary in their workplaces to ensure they are as safe as possible. Where employers do not fulfil their obligations, the union movement determines to do everything within its power to ensure the safety of workers and the community. This may include ceasing work or banning unsafe practices.” Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
With Australia is now experiencing the worst days since the start of the pandemic and the highest level of sickness ever seen in the workforce, leaders from national unions met to discuss the ongoing health and economic crisis caused by the rapid spread of Omicron.
The unions representing those workers report that they are exhausted and feel abandoned by governments who have encouraged “let it rip” policies.
“The “let it rip” governments have failed to prepare our health system and our community, and they are responsible for Australia suffering the highest per capita infection rates in the world. Essential workers are being expected to put themselves in harm’s way to keep the country going and in many cases without the protections they need.” Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Union leaders reported on the devastating impact the latest Covid wave is having on the health and incomes of working people. All unions express their solidarity, respect, and deep gratitude to the health care workers of our country who are experiencing the full brunt of this wave of sick people.
The union movement vowed to do everything they can to keep people safe and act to slow the spread of this latest wave of the Covid pandemic.
The ACTU condemned the failure of the Morrison Government to respond to our requests to work with us during this crisis; or our demands for the provision of free Rapid Antigen Tests, improved masks, fixing close contact definitions and restoring support for businesses and workers.
The Morrison Government has ignored repeated calls over the last 6 months from unions regarding the urgent need to procure RATs as an essential part of our Covid defence as well as the slow pace of the booster and children’s rollout putting working people at increased risk.
The ACTU determined that despite the Prime Minister not acting to keep working people safe, the union movement will.
Accordingly, ACTU members resolved to write to all employers reminding them of their obligation to do all that is reasonable and practical to keep workers safe.
This will require each workplace to undertake a new risk assessment for Omicron in consultation with unions, workers and their health and safety representatives. In addition, where appropriate, sector-specific plans should be developed in consultation with unions. New measures are now needed to ensure safety at work.
For workplaces were working from home is not an option, the provision of free RATs by employers to all workers will be necessary once supply is resolved, alongside upgraded masks and improved ventilation.
“Free RATs are needed for the whole community to limit the spread and keep people safe, not just essential workers. The failure of the Federal Government to act and to provide free and accessible RATs puts us all in harm’s way.” Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The ACTU is calling on the community to join us and demand the Federal Government reverse this decision. The union movement will work directly with the community to demand all members of the Federal Government be held accountable for the inaction of the Prime Minister.