Australian Stevedores Return to Work With Greater COVID-19 Protection
After a 10 day shutdown workers at Hutchison Ports Australia Sydney terminal have returned to work after stringent COVID-19 measures have been put in place.
A positive COVID-19 case was identified in the workforce on April 3 and a second case was notified shortly after. Around 50 workers are in or have been in isolation as a result.
The Maritime Union of Australia alleges that Hutchison took six days to reveal the exact shifts worked by the positive worker and only after the intervention of the NSW Department of Health did they cooperate with the workforce and union in dealing with the potential impact of the virus in the terminal. However, Hutchison states that the COVID-19 positive cases were not workplace transmissions. The company says it was informed of the positive test result of the worker on April 3, and it then consulted with the local health authorities and SafeWork NSW, the state’s workplace health and safety regulator, and immediately implemented recommended measures. Regarding the second case, the company says the employee had not been at the site during the infectious period.
The COVID-19 measures agreed to includes shift and physical distancing protocols, cleanliness measures across the entire terminal including machinery, a communication process prior to each shift informing members not to come to work if they are ill and full provision and supply of PPE. A COVID-19 committee has been set up with workplace representation to monitor and review all protocols and procedures.
The union states that Hutchison has comparatively small container volumes in Sydney so the supply chain impacted.
The union has also raised concerns about the ships that come to Darwin Port being under 14 days steaming time from China, the incubation period for COVID19.
Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles has now confirmed that all ships crew coming into Darwin port will have health checks for COVID19 symptoms.
The latest border force regulations state that ships may come into ports however if the vessel arrives within 14-days from their last international port of call the following restrictions apply:
• All crew must remain onboard while the vessel is berthed in Australia.
• Crew are able to disembark to conduct essential vessel functions and crew must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while performing these functions.
• Crew should restrict their interaction with non-crew members to those interactions that are critical to the safe operation and loading/unloading of the vessel.
• Crew must also use PPE in public spaces on board the vessel while non-crew members are onboard.