Bus and Tram Express
Bus and Tram Express

FAQs for Tram and Bus Division members: COVID-19

Mar 24, 2020COVID19

Given the current situation is changing so quickly, with sometimes differing messages coming out of the various levels of government, staying abreast of the latest information can be difficult. 

Below is a handy list of frequently asked questions that we hope will assist you to navigate through these uncertain times. 

Of course, if you have any queries or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact your local delegate or the Tram and Bus Division office at nswbus@rtbu-nsw.asn.au or (02)9319 7277. 

The RTBU is in regular contact with the government and health officials, as well as our different employers. We are doing everything we can to ensure they’re putting your health and safety – and that of commuters – first. We’ll continue to keep you updated on any information that comes out of those talks via our regular communications channels: bulletins, newsletters etc. 

Thanks for everything you’re doing during this difficult period. The work you’re doing at the moment – and every day – is vital and your commitment to the people of this state is certainly not going unnoticed. Thanks. 

Q. Can I access paid leave if I need to be isolated as a result of the coronavirus? 

A. Yes, what type of leave depends on what you have available. Special Leave depends on whether you’re a government or a private employee. 

Government Employees

20 days of special leave is being made available if:

  1. If you ARE SICK from COVID-19; you must use your sick leave first and then Special Leave will apply.
  2. If you are NOT SICK but have been directed to not attend the workplace then you are entitled to up to 20 days Special Leave. This includes self-isolating, caring for family members returning from overseas and caring for family members who are sick or are otherwise directed to self-isolate (for example, if the government moves to close schools etc).

If you are required to self isolate or test positive for the virus, the NSW Department of Health should provide paperwork to confirm. This in turn goes to your employer.

Private Company Employees

  1. Currently there is nothing that says private companies have to pay Special Leave, although all are doing so or have agreed to, on a case-by-case basis in certain circumstances.
  2. If you get sick you have to use your sick leave.
  3. If you run out of sick leave then you have to use other types of leave.
  4. If no leave is available you can ask the employer for special consideration.

Q. What does it mean to be ‘Stood Down’?

When a company no longer has work available, members can be ‘stood down’. This means that you will not be paid because you are not working. Leave entitlements can still be accessed and you are still on the books as an employee.

Q. What happens when I run out of leave?

You can approach your employer for consideration but once paid leave has run out, unpaid leave must be taken.

Q. I care for a child at school – what does the latest announcement from the NSW Premier mean for me? 

At this stage (Friday 27 March), schools remain open, however you are able to take your child out of school if you wish. 

The special leave will only apply if schools close, which means that at the moment, if you choose to take your child out of school and need to take time off work to look after them, you’ll have to use up your current leave balances. Special consideration can apply though (see the question about Special Leave above), so the best bet is to speak with your manager. If you still have concerns, please contact the union. 

Q. Will the Government stop bus, tram, and other transport services from running? 

At this stage (Friday 27 March), all services are running as usual. Of course, as with everything at the moment that may change. 

The good news for drivers and other workers at the moment is that the decrease in people travelling around the networks of Newcastle, Sydney and Canberra means that social distancing is more likely able to be adhered to. 

We don’t know what the future holds but if, and quite likely when, the Government moves to reduce public transport services, the RTBU will work with employers to ensure the process is managed fairly and transparently for workers and also work to ensure members are kept updated on their rights and the latest information. 

This is unchartered territory. All we can say is that whatever the next steps are, the RTBU will be doing everything we possibly can to make sure workers are protected.

Q. Will the RTBU offices close? 

All RTBU staff and officials have remote access and mobile phones, which means we’ll be on deck regardless of any shutdowns enforced by the Government. 

This is an important time for our members – we’ll be on hand throughout it to advocate on your behalf and to answer any questions that may arise. 

While there is an option to do so legally, the Divisional Office at Redfern will be manned. While our members are working on the front lines we will be there to support them.

Q. How often are our buses and trams being cleaned?

Buses and trams of all fleets are being cleaned daily with appropriate chemicals. Some employers are cleaning trams and buses more than once a day.

All employees should have now been issued with hand sanitizer and/or wipes by their employer. 

Local management should be able to give you a detailed overview of cleaning at each depot your specific area.

Q. Can I wear a mask? Will I be given one?

For our members at CMET, the ACT Government has made masks available. For our NSW members, we are working on having a standard mask provided to employees, but there is a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) material generally at the moment. There are nurses for example, without PPE. Currently front line medical staff are being given the highest priority for masks and other protective gear.

Anyone who wishes to wear their own mask can do so. Anyone who is told not to should contact their local union delegate or our office immediately.

Q. How can workers guarantee they’ll be safe? 

As bus and tram drivers and other public facing workers know all too well, viral outbreaks (including the flu etc) are tough to avoid. There can never be a guarantee no driver will get sick. In fact, a lot most likely will – just like in the general population. 

While it may seem simple, we cannot stress enough the importance of transport workers following the general community health recommendations in regard to COVID-19. These include: 

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water. 
  • Using hand sanitiser when soap and water are not available 
  • Covering your sneeze or cough with your elbow of with a tissue. 
  • Avoiding touching your face.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. 

Q. How can I stay up-to-date on the latest information? 

You can see the latest government 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: stayinformed.com.au

Q. What else do I need to know? 

Remember, the nature of the current situation means there are going to be questions that have no answers at this point; we are in uncharted territory. No one knows what the future is going to look like in some respects. 

What we can do is look after ourselves and our loved ones and try to remain vigilant, but as calm as possible. The work you’re doing is vital and is not going unnoticed. If you have any questions or concerns, please remember to contact your local delegate or the Division office.