NSW government refuses to define an ‘essential worker’ in Sydney lockdown restrictions video
New South WalesThe NSW government is still refusing to define an essential worker even if fines are issued for breaches
What is an essential worker in NSW?
Only essential workers can leave their homes in greater Sydney to attend work. The rest of us are to remain indoors except for the four reasons to leave, including getting essential supplies.
On Tuesday the rules got tougher for some essential workers. Those living in the Fairfield LGA now should not go to work except if really essential. They must have a Covid test every three days. They should carry proof of those tests with them. Presumably the NSW police will be checking.
Other essential workers who live elsewhere and who are travelling outside greater Sydney should get a test every week. Thats after a removalist who later found out he had Covid travelled to Victoria and South Australia. Presumably that means truck-drivers and tradies.
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But in a stunning commitment to ideology, the NSW is still stubbornly refusing to define an essential worker even though there are now likely to be fines associated with breaches.
To try and define essential work is really very challenging, said health minister Brad Hazzard. An employer and their employee would know whether the worker is really essential.
He implored businesses to avoid rostering people on from suspect areas (also not defined) and to use workers from other areas.
What needs to be done is common sense, he said.
Asked what an essential worker was, the chief medical officer, Kerry Chant, nominated health workers and aged care but many more are attending work in retail and hospitality venues.
In last years extended lockdown and again in May when restrictions were briefly reintroduced, the Victorian government published lists explaining in detail which workplaces were authorised to stay open and which were not. By contrast, NSW has left a vacuum, with the result that the state continues to see relatively high numbers of people who are out in the community while infectious.
There were 89 cases on Tuesday. Of these 55 were in isolation for the entire time, a slight improvement on Mondays figures when more than half were out in the community while infectious.
The lesson was learned in Victoria the hard way. People with no sick pay and tenuous employment as casuals continued to go to work in aged care, childcare, on building sites and in supermarkets (which remained open) even when they were unwell or waiting for tests results.
Victoria introduced an emergency payment of $450, which was available while people waited for tests.
The NSW government, however, refuses to deal with the problem, instead telling employees to make the right decisions.
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Meanwhile, many businesses that were closed in Victoria remain open in NSW, such as retail outlets and department stores.
Harvey Norman carried full-page ads in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday telling people they could still buy essentials like fridges and washing machines in store. They are also offering online and a click and collect service.
Construction work also continues as it did during the first wave of lockdown. But unlike last time, when construction sites were required to file Covid-safe plans and stagger tradies to ensure groups of workers didnt mingle, the rules are not as clear.
The CFMEU NSW secretary, Darren Greenfield, said the union was working with the state government, the departments of health and infrastructure, builders, employer groups and their members to ensure everyone in the industry adheres to the Covid-19 protocols and procedures that minimise risk and enable it to operate safely during the pandemic.
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Many builders have reintroduced the measures that were brought in last year such as staggered starts, finishes and break times, social distancing on sites, enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices, and the union has now instructed the industry and their members to wear masks on sites.
The union is working with builders and government to ensure workers from these areas are able to participate in the industry safely, Greenfield said.
There have already been examples of building sites being shut down after a positive cases. The latest is at the NSW governments own Goulburn Hospital redevelopment, where a worker travelled 200kms from the hot spot of south-west Sydney to work, reportedly as a painter.
As each day passes during the current crisis in NSW, the rules become more restrictive and complex. Yet, many of the workers that the government is asking to follow the rules have English as a second language and are often living pay-cheque to pay-cheque.
Communication is crucial. Explaining what is an essential business should be the role of government, particularly as it now threatening penalties for breaches.
It shouldnt be foisted on to individuals and small business to make the call, because this affects all of us.
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