AUSTRALIANS are being urged not to panic about supplies of essential goods, with the Maritime Union of Australia saying wharfies, seafarers and port workers are committed to ensuring supply chains continue to operate smoothly despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MUA is seeking an urgent meeting with Federal Government and industry representatives to develop a comprehensive plan to address the impacts of Covid-19 on maritime supply chains.
With more than 90 percent of Australian imports arriving by sea, including essential medical supplies, household items, and fuel, ensuring shipping and stevedoring continue operating safely will be vital to prevent the current health and economic crisis being exacerbated by the breakdown of supply chains.
The union today set demands that support the global call from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) for governments and employers to act to maintain sustainable supply chains and protect workers vital to Covid-19 response.
The MUA national secretary and ITF president Paddy Crumlin said the current health crisis has revealed how precarious Australia’s supply chains had become, with all container ships and fuel tankers delivering international supplies to the country now foreign owned and operated.
“Maritime supply chains are integral to keeping Australia moving, with everything from medical supplies and fuel to essential household items arriving at ports around the country,” Mr Crumlin said.
“That is why we are urging the Federal Government to immediately meet with industry and union representatives to develop procedures and policies that ensure our maritime supply chains aren’t cut.
“We are seeking additional resources be made available immediately to allow the mandatory pre-entry inspection of all vessels entering Australian ports, along with vital health and welfare checks for international crew members.
“Workers must also be provided with unlimited paid leave if they need to self-isolate or care for themselves, children, and other relatives, to ensure a lack of leave doesn’t result in people working when it is not safe to do so, potentially exposing others to this virus.”
Mr Crumlin said employers also had a significant role to play, both in the provision of appropriate health and safety measures and by ensuring income support so that no worker is financially disadvantaged.
“We are seeking paid leave for all workers while they await Covid-19 testing, along with unlimited paid special leave for those who return a positive result," she said.
“Workers should also have access to special leave if they need to self-isolate due to potential exposure, along with situations where they need to care for children or relatives, including during mandatory school closures.
“Employers must conduct regular toolbox meetings to provide clear and up-to-date health and safety advice to workers on how they are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The implementation of additional cleaning and decontamination measures on site, along with the provision of suitable PPE where workers are near each other, must also occur.
“Proper consultation with workplace health and safety committees and workers’ elected health and safety representatives should take place in a regular and ongoing manner to ensure emerging risks are quickly identified and appropriate measures put in place.”