Labour Council says ‘sacrificing workers’ no fix for testing crisis | Illawarra Mercury

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Essential workers and their families are being put in the firing line with new exemptions to COVID-19 isolation rules, South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris says. Critical workers in the food logistics and manufacturing sectors furloughed as close contacts will be permitted to leave self-isolation to attend work if they have no symptoms of COVID-19, to ensure the state has continued access to essential goods. The move is a result of “testing system failure,” according to Mr Rorris. “Sacrificing our health is not the way to fix it,” he said. “We have paid far too much already for a current wave that was in large part made worse by government stupidity and arrogance. “What the government is trying to do is to keep the wheels going round by forcing workers and their families to play a game of Russian roulette. “We aren’t playing that game. “Further, we understand the government is dancing very close to the wind in terms of facing a class action over lost income due to the incredible disaster that has become of the COVID testing system.” Read more: Latest performance data shows impact of COVID outbreak on Illawarra hospitals Thousands of workers have had to isolate at home, without pay, while waiting for the results of PCR tests, which in some cases have taken up to two weeks. Mr Rorris urged workers who had been exposed to the virus to take whatever steps they deemed necessary to protect themselves and their families, citing the Workplace Health and Safety Act. The debacle has also caused a number of businesses to close or operate at reduced capacity due to lack of staff. Business Illawarra has called on the NSW Government to support businesses impacted by the Omicron surge as they struggle to keep their doors open. “It’s been a really challenging Christmas and New Year period for Illawarra businesses of all sizes across many industries as they battled staff shortages arising from workers becoming infected and isolating, and a drop in consumer confidence,” said Executive Director of Business Illawarra, Adam Zarth. Read more: Skipper charged over Bulli boating death “It was a perfect storm as customers fearing COVID-19 stayed away from businesses that would normally thrive during summer. “Those that did venture out attended venues that were severely understaffed. “All this has been exacerbated by the unavailability of Rapid Antigen Tests, which should have been better planned for given the publication of a reopening roadmap back in October.” Relief measures proposed by Business Illawarra include allowing all close contact employees to return to the workplace with a negative RAT; an extension of the SME Summer Stock Guarantee to allow impacted businesses to apply to the guarantee if their business has been closed due to a close contact leading to majority staff stand-down for more than three days; an extension of the commercial rent relief for tenants who have closed or ceased trade between December 15 and January 14 due to current COVID trade impacts; and the reinstatement of the Hardship Review Panel to assess business impacts into 2022. “Business is not seeking a handout, but we are seeking support to keep the doors open,” Mr Zarth said. The Illawarra Mercury newsroom is funded by our readers. You can subscribe to support our journalism here.


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