COVID-19: latest update
The RTBU has been meeting regularly with employers and government health representatives to ensure adequate measures are being put in place to ensure your safety and the safety of our commuters.
The reality at is stage is that it looks as though containment of COVID-19 is highly unlikely, and probably always was. It must be remembered that this is effectively a new strain of flu, and as transport workers we all know how impossible it is to stop that from spreading. We do however, know what we can personally do to minimise catching the flu and the same measures apply;
- Wash your hands regularly. Wash your hands properly. Follow the guidelines at work and at the end of this bulletin. Hand washing instructions are also in all workplaces.
- If you are unable to wash your hands then use hand sanitiser. All workplaces are providing extra sanitiser to employees.
- Do not touch your face when you have dirty hands. This is crucial.
- Cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow to stop the spread of droplets. This is the main way in which the virus spreads.
- If you wish to wear a mask you are entitled to do so.
Having now spoken to representatives from all employers I can report that the information being given to employees has been consistently good across the board. While each employer has gone about things differently, all are aware of the issue and have been taking steps to keep staff informed of the situation and how to best protect themselves. An example of this is that extra hand sanitiser has been provided at all workplaces for both bus and light rail members. We are actively working with your employers to make sure that people are as protected as possible – we don’t want to get sick and they don’t want their services to stop.
At another level, there are answers that can only be provided by Transport for NSW and the NSW Dept of Health. We are seeking clarification about the use of Special Leave which is currently being used in cases where government employees are being ordered to self-isolate after returning from quarantine areas overseas (as per govt advice). The private companies the Union deals with have either been paying, or are ready to pay, employees special leave as well, in line with the government response. Anyone who works for a private company who does get sick down the track as the virus spreads naturally will be expected to utilise sick leave or other leave entitlements. Government employees will qualify for ‘Pandemic Leave’ once an Influenza Pandemic has been declared – we’ll have more on that as the details are finalised between Unions NSW and the NSW Government. We are obviously pushing to make sure that members are not being forced to use their leave entitlements unduly and the response from employers so far has been good.
Items such as masks and extra cleaning of work environments are also being discussed. I can report that some employers have already taken extra steps for cleaning. Some are currently rolling out new cleaning directives, and some are in the process of presenting plans to Transport for NSW for funding. The Union will obviously be supporting those plans and lobbying the Govt to approve funding ASAP.
In relation to masks, it is current NSW government policy that only medical professionals are able to access surgical masks. Given the health system is going to come under serious strain over the next month or so, it is crucial that those people who may be caring for us or our loved ones can do so safely. As previously stated, any member who wants to wear a mask they purchase for work is entitled to do so.
Members need to understand that it is the nature of a viral outbreak that almost everyone could be affected at some point. How badly people are affected will depend to a large degree on overall health and any pre-existing conditions. Only you know your medical history so if you have any respiratory issues in particular, you need to be extra vigilant. Members can access the latest 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-
Remember to keep informed. Buying 20 tonnes of toilet paper isn’t going to help and neither is panicking. Remember that this is essentially a new strain of the flu and while some people may suffer more than others, the way to deal with it is the same.
Further updates will follow as more information becomes available.