TWU urges government to provide rapid testing kits to save supply chains
EMPTY supermarket shelves underscore governmental failure to provide rapid antigen testing kits (RATs) for transport workers, according to the Transport Workers Union (TWU), with "as up to 50 percent of truck drivers are absent due to COVID-19".
TWU national secretary, Michael Kaine said Australia's supply chain is now under significant pressure, with large logistics operators reporting up to half their workforce absent amid testing delays and the inability of workers to secure rapid tests.
Mr Kaine said reports of empty supermarket shelves across Australia was a predictable outcome of the government's failure to prioritise rapid tests for the country's most mobile workforce. The union has been told by large transport operators working out of major Australia ports that between a third and half of their workforces were missing each day.
“The TWU wrote to the Prime Minister in October urging the government to provide rapid tests to road transport workers to avoid unnecessary delays and keep drivers on the road," Mr Kaine said.
"Instead, we have a completely predictable scenario where drivers are delivering rapid tests to be sold on the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies -- but they, like most Australians, can't access them themselves."
Mr Kaine said road transport was Australia’s most mobile industry and interstate truck drivers were at increased risk of virus exposure. The TWU and Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) have been calling on the Federal Government to implement a COVID-Safe National Transport Roadmap with rapid testing at its heart to combat the risk of covid spreading across states and territories as other restrictions are eased.
"We need to prioritise critical industries like transport," Mr Kaine said. "These tests are an important weapon in the fight against the virus, and without them, the virus is hitching a ride through transport supply chains, putting workers and the industry in danger.
“It’s always too little, too late with this government. First it was the sluggish vaccine rollout that left transport workers behind, and now it’s the failure to protect transport workers and supply chains from Omicron.
“It is vital that rapid tests are free and readily available. The government must prioritise access to transport workers and their employers who the community is again depending upon to keep Australia moving safely.”