Is it okay to put business before people and their health? Recently, a South Australia abattoir told workers they should come to work even if infected with the virus unless their symptoms rendered them too unwell.
The incident has angered the unions. More than 30 unions have put Australian workplaces on notice, urging them to ramp up COVID-19 safety measures. On one hand, businesses can be seen taking increasingly risky measures to cope with mass labour shortage, on the other, workers are concerned about their health.
Australian Council of Trade Unions said, “Essential workers are being expected to put themselves in harm’s way to keep the country going and in many cases without the protections they need.”
It further stated that where employers do not fulfill their obligations, the union movement determines to do everything within its power to ensure the safety of workers and the community. This may even include ceasing work or banning unsafe practices.
As per a Bloomberg report, Teys, part-owned by U.S. agricultural giant Cargill had backed down from the mandate for positive workers at its abattoir following a widespread backlash. South Australia Health confirmed that more than 140 positive cases were now linked to the site. The firm claims it followed rules from the state health department, which confirmed it had permitted some Covid-positive staff in critical fields
To curb the labour shortage crisis National Cabinet has also reduced furlough arrangements for multiple sectors, including transport, freight, and logistics; health and welfare; emergency services; utilities; critical goods; all the sectors directly supporting these; and a good many others.
Under the reduced furlough arrangements, people in these sectors who are close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case will be allowed to return to work if they test negative on a rapid antigen test (RAT), instead of having to self-isolate for seven days (10 days in South Australia.
Businesses have been demanding this easing of the restrictions for months, but workers can be seen prioritising health. The government walks on a tight rope to strike a balance between business and unions demands.