COVID Update – 31 July 2021
This week, COVID went from bad to worse with case numbers growing and the number of people in the community while infectious remaining stubbornly high. Unfortunately, nothing the Government is trying seems to be working. It has become increasingly apparent that the delay in taking action when the outbreak first began was a terrible error by the Government.
As always, it is frontline workers who bear the brunt of Government mistakes. Transport workers are still, as they have always been, providing a vital service to the public in this trying time. Unfortunately, this week we saw a positive COVID case at Penrith Signal Box. Again, we did not see the transparency you would expect when people’s health is on the line, and it was left to the Railway rumour mill to distribute the information. Employers need to do better when they are faced with COVID cases, we deserve at least that.
On Monday, the NSW Government quietly announced that it would provide all public sector workers with an entitlement to 2 hours pay for the purpose of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Unions have been calling for this entitlement since the most recent outbreak, however, we sought that workers be given half a day, not 2 hours. Further, this entitlement remains at the discretion of management, which is not good enough. However, it is a good start as it remains the case that it appears that the best way out of this crisis is vaccination.
We raised concerns with Transport for NSW on Friday about vulnerable workers being forced to engage in work during the current outbreak due to financial pressure resulting from having to stay home. No worker should feel pressure to attend work if they feel unsafe in any way. We await a position from Transport on this issue.
This week the Government produced two new amendments to the public health orders in place. The new orders provide:
- Residents in Fairfield, Liverpool, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, George’s River and Campbelltown Local Government Areas (Affected LGAs) cannot work outside of these LGAs unless they are on the authorised workers list.
- The 3-day COVID surveillance test rule will now only apply to the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA. Authorised workers in the other Affected LGAs will not have to comply with the 3-day COVID surveillance test.
- If you live in an Affected LGA and you are leaving your home to go shopping for essential goods, you cannot travel outside your LGA, or further than 5 kms from your home.
- Preparation and recommencement construction work in unoccupied sites is allowed to start again, apart from inside the Affected LGAs.
- The Affected LGAs are now able to be changed more easily without recourse to a new public health order. From here on out, the Chief Medical Officer can simply list an LGA on the NSW Health website and it will become an Affected LGA placing new restrictions on all residents therein.
For members at Sydney Trains, we’ve been informed that normal timetables will commence next week. For NSW Trains, although they have not told us or members, rosters are showing the recommencement of normal timetables. It will be good for things get back to some degree of normality with the resumption of full services, and we hope that this trend continues.
New payments are available for workers who have lost more than 20 hours’ worth of income due to lockdowns resulting from the most recent outbreak:
- From 15 July 2021 until 4 August 2021 – $600 per week
- From 5 August 2021 until 28 August 2021 – $750 per week.
For workers who are forced to self-isolate for 14 days, if you have no leave entitlements, or are otherwise not being paid, you are entitled to a payment of $1,500 for that period.
If you have any specific issues arising from the latest outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, please get in touch. We know this is a difficult time for members, and the quickly changing restrictions and health advice can be hard to follow.
As always, make sure you stay safe.