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FAQs for members: COVID-19

Mar 27, 2020COVID19 News

Given the current situation is changing so quickly, with sometimes differing messages coming out of the various levels of government, staying abreast of the latest information can be difficult

Below is a handy list of frequently asked questions that we hope will assist you to navigate through these uncertain times.

Of course, if you have any queries or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact your local delegate or office at nswho@rtbu-nsw.asn.au or (02)9264 2511.

The RTBU is in regular contact with the government and health officials, as well as our different employers. We are doing everything we can to ensure they’re putting your health and safety – and that of commuters – first. We’ll continue to keep you updated on any information that comes out of those talks via our regular communications channels: bulletins, newsletters etc.

Thanks for everything you’re doing during this difficult period. The work you’re doing at the moment – and every day – is vital and your commitment to the people of this state is certainly not going unnoticed. Thanks.

Q. Can I access paid leave if I need to be isolated as a result of the coronavirus?

A. Yes, what type of leave depends on what you have available. Special Leave depends on whether you’re a government or a private employee.

Government Employees

20 days of special leave is being made available if:

  1. If you ARE SICK from COVID-19; you must use your sick leave first and then Special Leave will apply.
  2. If you are NOT SICK but have been directed to not attend the workplace then you are entitled to up to 20 days Special Leave. This includes caring for family members returning from overseas and caring for family members who are sick or are otherwise directed to self-isolate (for example, if the government moves to close schools etc).

Private Company Employees

  1. Currently there is nothing that says private companies have to pay Special Leave, although all are doing so or have agreed to, on a case-by-case basis in certain circumstances.
  2. If you get sick you have to use your sick leave.
  3. If you run out of sick leave then you have to use other types of leave.
  4. If no leave is available you can ask the employer for special consideration.

Q. What does it mean to be ‘Stood Down’?

When a company no longer has work available, members can be ‘stood down’. This means that you will not be paid because you are not working. Leave entitlements can still be accessed.

There are only very specific circumstances where an employer can stand you down without pay. If you are stood down, it’s important that you contact your local delegate straight away.

Q. What happens when I run out of leave?

You can approach your employer for consideration but once paid leave has run out, unpaid leave must be taken.

Q. I care for a child at school – what does the latest announcement from the NSW Premier mean for me?

At this stage (Friday 27 March), schools remain open, however you are able to take your child out of school if you wish.

The special leave will only apply if schools close, which means that at the moment, if you choose to take your child out of school and need to take time off work to look after them, you’ll have to use up your current leave balances. Special consideration can apply though (see the question about Special Leave above), so the best bet is to speak with your manager. If you still have concerns, please contact the union.

Q. Will the Government stop transport services from running?

At this stage (Friday 27 March), all services are running as usual. Of course, as with everything at the moment, that may change.

The good news for transport workers at the moment is that the decrease in people travelling around the city means that social distancing is more likely able to be adhered to.

We don’t know what the future holds, but if and when the Government moves to reduce public transport services, the RTBU will work with employers to ensure the process is managed fairly and transparently for workers and also work to ensure members are kept updated on their rights and the latest information.

This is unchartered territory. All we can say is that whatever the next steps are, the RTBU will be doing everything we possibly can to make sure workers are protected.

Q. Will the RTBU offices close?

All RTBU staff and officials have remote access and mobile phones, which means we’ll be on deck regardless of any shutdowns enforced by the Government.

This is an important time for our members – we’ll be on hand throughout it to advocate on your behalf and to answer any questions that may arise.

While there is an option to do so legally, Pitt Street will remain open, with physical distancing adhered to.

Q. How often are our trains being cleaned?

All trains at this stage are being cleaned daily with appropriate chemicals.

The RTBU is agitating for more comprehensive cleaning to take place on a more regular basis. It is important that this occurs to protect members and the travelling public.

Local management should be able to give you a detailed overview of cleaning in your specific area.

Q. How can workers guarantee they’ll be safe?

As transport workers, and other public facing workers, we know all too well, viral outbreaks (including the flu etc) are tough to avoid. There can never be a guarantee a worker won’t get sick. In fact, a lot most likely will – just like in the general population.

While it may seem simple, we cannot stress enough the importance of transport workers following the general community health recommendations in regard to COVID-19. These include:

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Using hand sanitiser when soap and water are not available
  • Covering your sneeze or cough with your elbow of with a tissue.
  • Avoiding touching your face.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

Q. How can I stay up-to-date on the latest information?

You can see the latest government information here: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx

With a constantly growing list of Frequently Asked Questions here: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx

Transport for NSW has also set up a dedicated website here:


Q. If I feel unsafe at work because of COVID 19, what are my options?

Your safety is paramount. If you feel unsafe at work, you should follow the following steps:

  • Cease work and ask for alternative duties
  • Inform your HSR
  • Talk to your manager
  • Call your local delegate.

Q. I’m worried about the mental health of my workmates or myself.

This is a very stressful time, financially and emotionally and we encourage members to seek help if they are feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

  • Investigate your Employers Employee Assistance Program.  Most employers will provide, free of charge, access to confidential counselling and support during this period.
  • You can also contact Lifeline 13 11 44
  • If you or someone you know is at imminent risk call 000.

Q. Will I be tested for Covid-19?

At the moment, testing procedures who outline who can get access to the test for Covid-19 are changing. Currently testing occurs if someone has been overseas AND has symptoms.

If you are unwell, or have been in contact with a known case of Covid-19, or have been overseas, it is important to self-isolate and seek medical advice.

Q. What else do I need to know?

Remember, the nature of the current situation means there are going to be questions that have no answers at this point. No one knows what the future is going to look like in some respects.

What we can do is look after ourselves and our loved ones and try to remain vigilant, but as calm as possible. The work you’re doing is vital and is not going unnoticed. If you have any questions or concerns, please remember to contact your local delegate or the union office.

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