THE Maritime Union of Australia has written to major businesses in Australia’s maritime supply chain seeking the urgent implementation of a consistent, industry-wide framework aimed at preventing viral transmission on worksites.

The union’s proposed framework has been drawn together based on current health advice, along with industry developments internationally, with the aim of ensuring best-practice measures are in place to protect the health and safety of maritime workers.

With approximately 98 percent of Australian imports arriving by sea, including essential medical supplies, food, fuel, and other household items, preventing the spread of this disease is vital to ensuring supply chains remain operational and freight continues to flow safely.

MUA national secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation President Paddy Crumlin said he was surprised and concerned that some Australian businesses, particularly stevedores, had been reluctant to meet and discuss the current situation.

“While workers are acutely aware of the significant role they play in Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some stevedores had taken an unfortunate and unsustainable approach, going it alone rather than embracing a consistent industry-wide solution,” Mr Crumlin said.

“In other areas, such as intermodal and logistics, there has been a much more mature approach.

“That is why we are seeking to urgently meet with key businesses, in particular stevedores, to implement a clear, concise, consistent framework that addresses the identifiable health and safety risks this pandemic poses and acts on the advice of the chief medical officer.

“The scale of this crisis places a collective responsibility on our vital industry to show leadership, find consensus, and implement immediate solutions that protect lives and prevent potential disruptions to our national supply chain.

“Thousands of maritime workers — including tug crews towing ships, linesmen tying them up, and wharfies loading and unloading them — are on the front line ensuring the current health and economic crisis isn’t exacerbated by the breakdown of supply chains.

“While our members remain committed to ensuring freight continues to move smoothly during this pandemic, this can only be achieved if the industry embraces appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on worksites.

“Not only could it be potentially catastrophic for workers who catch this virus, but any illness will cause substantial disruptions as highly-skilled workers are lost from their vital roles.

“We are urging all maritime employers to work with us to implement these protocols to minimise the risk of infection to workers or the general public.”

A copy of the COVID-19 Maritime Industry Framework is available here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1GQeiXB9wpfrN46z-dqwwtdF4-1WM_nDP

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WITH THE RELEASE of the Statement of Expectations today by the Australian Energy Regulator, Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon said networks were working to assist customers.

"Networks continue to discuss with governments, regulators and retailers about the best ways to support customers through this difficult period,” Mr Dillon said.

"These are unprecedented times for small business, with many around the country being forced to close their doors.

"It is in the best interests of the country that these businesses be supported through what will be a difficult journey.

"Energy networks understand many households are also facing challenging circumstances.

"With many customers now working from home, networks are doing what they can to minimise the impact of planned outages for critical work and to keep them as short as possible," Mr Dillon said.

"Safely keeping the lights on and the gas flowing for the months to come is critically important and networks are continuing to undertake critical works to keep energy supplies safe and reliable.”

Energy Networks Australia is the national industry body representing Australia's electricity transmission and distribution and gas distribution networks. Members provide more than 16 million electricity and gas connections to almost every home and business across Australia. 

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THE Joint Standing Committee on Migration has decided to suspend its inquiry into migration in regional Australia, in light of the economic effects of the public health situation changing the nature of the needs of communities in regional Australia.

“Given the fast evolving situation in Australia and around the world, and the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Committee felt it best to suspend its inquiry,” committee chair Julian Leeser MP said. “The committee was unanimous in this decision, which it does not take lightly.

“The committee will reconsider the matter later in 2020 but would like to sincerely thank everyone who has contributed to the inquiry so far. Your input and dedication to supporting and developing Australia’s regions is greatly appreciated.”

Any questions about the suspension of the inquiry should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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MY BUSINESS HEALTH, a web portal designed to provide holistic support to small business owners, now features a dedicated section for those struggling with the COVID-19 crisis.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has been inundated with distressing stories of small businesses decimated by the ripple-effects of coronavirus.

“Small businesses are in a world of pain right now, with many forced to close their doors and others fighting to survive,” Ms Carnell said.

“Many of these small business owners will be too busy in their efforts to stay afloat to realise the toll it’s taking on their mental health.

“My Business Health offers simple and practical information to help small businesses find their way through this difficult time.

“This includes the latest information on government support measures as well as assistance with employer obligations, finances, available government payments, loans and tax," Ms Carnell said.

“There are also a number of resources by leading mental health organisations such as Beyond Blue, Lifeline and Everymind that deal with the impact of COVID-19 specifically.

“Personally, I want the Australian small and family business community to know that despite these extraordinary challenges we are now facing, this is temporary and there will come a day when our lives and livelihoods return to normal.

“My office will be working hard to ensure small businesses are supported throughout this difficult journey.

“But during the coming weeks and months, find ways to work on your business – consider the changes you can make to adjust to this new environment if possible – and be kind to yourselves. 

“Try to take time out for your wellbeing because your business ultimately depends on it. Visiting My Business Health is an excellent starting point.”

24-hour telephone support is available via Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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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.”

ITF statement: https://www.itfglobal.org/en/news/covid-19-itf-global-demands-governments-and-employers

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