The current Melbourne outbreak costing frontline workers is linked to a quarantine leak from Adelaide’s Playford medi-hotel earlier this month.
Quotes attributable to Lyndal Ryan, United Workers Union Director of Property Services:
“The medi-hotel system is broken. We know the Marshall Liberal Government didn’t fix the issue of security contractors, they just buried it, and then continued to use some security contractors in places like the Playford.
“Throughout the pandemic poor standards and a lack of support from the Government has meant frontline workers in medi-hotels are choosing between their health and putting food on the table. Last time the Government’s way to fix the problem was to blame security guards – workers, who were just doing their job, working for security contractors who put profits before safety.
“Guards are scared to speak out. Almost immediately after the Union raised issues with Treasurer Rob Lucas the State of South Australia had security guards sign agreements that stop them from speaking out under threat of being sued.
“Security guards are being asked to only work at medi-hotels but are not guaranteed full-time work. One job should be enough to pay the bills, raise a family, and retire with dignity, without this it encourages secondary jobs exponentially increasing the risk of spreading the virus as we have seen within aged care sites.
“We know guards are doing exceptionally long hours such as four times 12 hour shifts and anecdotally have been told they’ve been asked to do a fifth. These workers deserve better as they provide this vital service every day, risking taking the coronavirus home to their loved ones.”
The problem is a combination of:
Insecure work – employees working at multiple worksites due to precarious, low paid casual and part-time employment.
A lack of a liveable wage – not paying workers enough that they need to work excessive overtime.
Subcontracting – the Government subcontracts to a hotel, they then subcontract on as well.
Lack of consistency in training and personal protective equipment.
The United Workers Union is calling on the Marshall Liberal Government to:
Directly employ people working in medi-hotels, with security company licenses tightened to prohibit them from subcontracting to other security firms.
Pay workers properly for full-time and consistent work, ensuring there are sufficient guards and cleaners to appropriately manage quarantine.
Provide proper training including improved procedures for PPE training and observance of social distancing. When the Parafield cluster happened (the cluster that caused the last South Australia outbreak) it came from the Peppers medi-hotel.
Pay stand down leave for all impacted medi-hotel workers in future outbreaks.
The United Workers Union also calls on the Morrison Government to act on national quarantine standards.
The last outbreak (Parafield cluster) happened because of inadequate training and PPE being provided to staff. In November 2020 United Workers Union was so concerned by reports from members that a meeting was arranged with the Treasurer, Rob Lucas. In that meeting, the union raised significant concerns regarding what was happening on the ground in medi-hotels, including lack of training and unsafe work systems for security. The Union was told by the Treasurer to write to the Minister for Health. On 23 November, 2020 UWU wrote to Minister Stephen Wade. It was clearly not a priority for the Minister for Health as no response was provided until 8 March, 2021 saying everything is fine.
The Marshall Liberal Government was one of the slowest to roll out testing to workers, with contractors that are not security and cleaning (i.e. electricians or air conditioning specialists) still slipping through the cracks.
There are several quarantine hotels in Adelaide – Peppers, the Stamford and the Pullman where security contractors are used for the general hotel quarantine. Anyone who tests positive is taken to Tom’s Court Hotel exclusively staffed by SA Health and SA Police according to the Government.
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