Transport workers have expressed safety concerns over working alongside close contacts, with some claiming to have been asked to return to work while still sick with COVID, according to a union survey.
A Transport Workers Union (TWU) survey of almost 2,500 workers, including those in passenger transport and aviation, revealed a majority of respondents claim they had been exposed to COVID-19, including reports of workers asked to return while still covid-positive or symptomatic, close contacts told not to test before returning to work, and workplaces not cleaned after positive cases.
The survey revealed 90 per cent of respondents did not want to work alongside close contacts and 96 per cent wanted access to free rapid antigen tests.
“I tested positive again after 6 days of isolation and was told I don’t need to do a test after 7 days and can return to work! I refused as I still had symptoms,” one respondent said
Another said they were “pressured to work even though I could barely drive the bus. I refused to work the next day because I tested positive.”
A third reported being “harassed by phone calls and messages from management telling me to go back ASAP, but I was still unwell.”
Other concerning themes included workers losing pay or being criticised for fulfilling isolation requirements, management not informing workers they’d worked in close quarters with covid-positive colleagues, and casual workers feeling pressured to work while possibly infectious because they have no sick leave.
Despite their increased risk of virus exposure, the survey found three quarters had not yet received their booster vaccination.
Almost 30 per cent of respondents were not yet eligible for the booster, owing to the Federal Government not prioritising essential transport workers in the initial rollout, while other workers couldn’t get the time off to get boosted and recover from symptoms without losing pay.
TWU national assistant secretary Nick McIntosh said the relaxing of isolation rules has sent a dangerous signal to put workplace health and safety at the bottom of the pile.
“Transport workers are reporting being called to return to work while still covid-positive or symptomatic to fulfil transport contracts with wealthy supply chain clients. This is a blatant prioritisation of profits over safety.
“Transport workers who’ve kept us going throughout the pandemic say they’re being told not to bother testing when most likely carrying the virus, and are forced to work in unclean, unsafe environments without even being informed when colleagues test positive.
“We warned Morrison months ago that supply chains would go to ruin without free rapid tests, vaccine priority and covid-safe plans for transport workers. These are still the solutions to our supply chain crisis, but Morrison is still refusing to act.”
Travel Weekly has reached out to Virgin Australia, Qantas and the Tourism Transport Forum for comment but had not received response by the time of publishing.
Featured image: iStock/Halfpoint