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Issue #1907      March 16, 2020

Workers must be supported through Coronavirus

United Workers Union – the union for 150,000 Australians in a range of essential industries – is calling for workers to be supported as concerns around coronavirus (COVID-19) escalate nationally.

Union Director Carolyn Smith said now was the time for all Australians to get behind the workers who keep our communities running.

“Our members’ work reaches millions of people every single day of their lives. It is working people who are on the frontline of the coronavirus threat,” Ms Smith said.

“We need significant back-up and support – from employers and from government – to deal with this global health crisis.”

The union is calling for the following key commitments to be put in place immediately to ensure workers are safe and don’t lose out under this global health crisis:

  • If workers cannot work due to coronavirus risks, they should not lose pay
  • The federal government needs to support workers and the community
  • Workers must be entitled to avoid unsafe workplace situations
  • Workers must be consulted about employer response to coronavirus
  • Workers falling into special categories (including higher risk and carers) must be supported
  • Workers must be supplied with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Ms Smith said the union would be writing to hundreds of employers and politicians, reminding them of their responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers.

“Already we have seen employers and the federal government try to shirk their role in supporting our workers through these challenging times,” she said.

“Any federal government assistance package must be targeted to supporting workers, including casual and low paid.

“Instead Scott Morrison and the federal Coalition is focussed on helping big business get out of paying sick leave. Airport workers have had to fight for PPE and had their shifts cut, while cleaners have been asked to clean the Diamond Princess cruise ship without any safety information.

“We want to reassure our members that ensuring they are safe and fairly paid is our top priority.”

United Workers Union members work in frontline industries including education, aged care, health care, emergency services, cleaning, security, logistics and farms.

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