Workplaces’ second-wave risk exposed
Workplaces across Australia are simply not ready to return staff to the COVID-19 frontline and are risking a second wave of infections.
A shocking new poll of workers across Australia commissioned has found just one in 10 workplaces has increased basic preventive measures including purchasing hand sanitiser supplies.
Only 4 per cent of those still attending the workplace said there was additional cleaning or disinfection occurring at work.
A stunning 90 per cent of workers also said there was no plan in place in case they or a co-worker developed symptoms or tested positive.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions released the poll on Thursday night to underline its push for paid pandemic leave for workers, particularly casuals who may not have access to any sick leave if they become unwell.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus has repeatedly warned that the risk that casuals will attend work when sick poses a huge health challenge for the community because they have no paid leave and may be desperate for the money.
"More needs to be done to keep workers safe. We are more than two months into the lockdown period and almost 90 per cent of working people say their workplaces don't have hand sanitiser,'' she said.
"Pandemic leave, or some form of additional paid leave is necessary to ensure that people can get tested or self-isolate, has been provided to 1 per cent of working people."
Despite rising anxiety levels as a result of the pandemic, 1300 workers surveyed also told pollsters that employers had no effort to support their mental health.
Surprisingly, one in three workers also reported they were not social distancing from other workers if they are still at work.
Low income workers also confessed they were more likely to attend work if feeling unwell.
"This polling shows how much work is left to be done before the economy can be safely re- opened. The union movement is launching a campaign to make workplaces as safe as possible, but we need immediate action from all governments to prevent a second wave of infection,'' Ms McManus said.
The fight over pandemic leave comes as the Morrison Government hinted it may legislate to nullify a new court ruling confirmed long term casuals should have access to sick leave and holidays.
Attorney-General Christian Porter confirmed that clearer guidelines on how workers could transition from casual work to part-time or full-time status may be needed.
But he cautioned the decision as it stands could put more pressure on employers to sack workers at the worst possible time.
"This decision is, unfortunately, a driver of uncertainty into the employment market," he said.
"There are some very significant shortcomings in Australia's industrial relations system and it's been operating with a degree of uncertainty for some time, and obviously part of the government's response is going to be to consult with unions and employer groups to try and drive certainty into the system."
But Labor's workplace relations spokesman Tony Burke urged the Morrison Government not to use the law to protect dodgy bosses.
"If Christian Porter wants to use the parliament to provide a protection racket for employers who have broken the law then he can expect an argument," he said.
Originally published as Workplaces' second-wave risk exposed