Union brands new NSW COVID policy 'beyond reckless'

State to allow close contacts of COVID cases to report to work

Union brands new NSW COVID policy 'beyond reckless'

Critical workers in select sectors in New South Wales that are close contacts for COVID-19 cases are now allowed to leave self-isolation if they are not exhibiting symptoms of the disease.

According to an announcement from the state, the rule applies for the following sectors:

  • agriculture (biosecurity and food safety personnel undertaking critical duties)
  • manufacturing (production and manufacturing of food, beverages, groceries, cleaning and sanitary products)
  • transport, postal and warehousing (food logistics, delivery and grocery fulfilment)

"The exemption from the isolation rules for close contacts also applies to emergency services workers who are necessary for the delivery of critical services and who cannot work from home," the announcement read.

The government clarified, however, that they will only be able to leave self-isolation if their absence poses a "high risk of disruption to the delivery of critical services or activities, and they are unable to work from home."

Once out, they will be required to wear a mark and follow risk-management strategies imposed by their employers, including Rapid Antigen Tests.

This comes as NSW reported on Monday 20,293 new cases of COVID-19 that have been detected by the PCR test.

"As increasingly people follow NSW Health's advice to use rapid antigen tests for diagnosing COVID-19, the number of PCR tests will underestimate the true number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19," the NSW Health said on a tweet.

Read more: ACTU slams government's Summit on Women's Safety

Unions oppose

Following the announcement from the state, the Transport Workers' Union (TWU) expressed its opposition over the new policy.

"Scrapping isolation requirements for transport workers is beyond reckless – workers are being thrown to the wolves by a government that continues to ignore all the warnings," said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine in a statement.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) also backed the TWU for its cause, saying that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is "turning his back on workers."

"The Australian Council of Trade Unions joins with the Transport Workers Union in urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison against proceeding with his reckless plan to force supply chain workers back to the front-line despite being possibly infected with the COVID virus," said ACTU acting secretary Liam O'Brien.

"Forcing potentially infected staff back to work will only exacerbate the already rampant spread of the highly infectious Omicron strain throughout workplaces and the broader community, putting the safety of all Australians at risk," he added.

According to O'Brien, Morrison should meet with workers and listen to their demands to make Rapid Antigen Tests free and accessible to all.

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