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NSW ARTIO and TWU seek clarity on Sydney lockdowns

Industrial groups welcome exemptions for transport workers


An eventful past few days have ended with the trucking industry’s industrial arms welcoming transport worker exemption in Covid-hit Sydney local government areas (LGAs).

But the New South Wales branches of the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO NSW) and Transport Workers’ Union (TWU NSW) are looking for more.

Particularly, they called for clear advice to workers, employers and those enforcing new restrictions and that the exemption will apply to future snap rule changes “which cause undue confusion and stress”.

The industry calls are of a pattern whereby government anti-Covid moves are met with demands for clarity and system.

The TWU and ARTIO wrote to the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday to demand an exemption for transport workers “to ensure NSW communities are not cut off from essential supplies like food and medicine, passenger transport and waste removal services”.

The NSW government updated advice on its website that night, including a list of ‘authorised workers’ permitted to go to work, which includes freight, logistics, courier and delivery workers, bus drivers, waste workers and airport workers.

 Taxi and rideshare drivers were not been granted the exemption.

Major bus depots that service the Inner West and regional bus routes are inside and just outside of the Fairfield LGA.

The two bodies note that, according to the 2016 census, more than 20,000 transport workers live in the Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown LGAs.

Read about Victorian ire over Covid-infected NSW furniture removalists, here

ARTIO NSW secretary Laurie D’Apice made plain that clear advice must be urgently provided to the industry.

“We’re pleased a full exemption has been granted, but transport businesses need more clarity than an updated webpage,” D’Apice said.

“The extreme demand in the transport industry cannot withstand mixed messages that cause delays and frustration. Transport is an industry which operates 24/7.

“Setbacks only damage businesses and the economy and prevent workers from performing their essential duties.”

TWU NSW branch secretary Richard Olsen insisted future stress and confusion must be avoided.

“The exemption will come as a relief to the more than 20,000 transport workers in South-West Sydney who yesterday believed they would not be able to go to work,” Olsen said.

“We commend the NSW government for responding quickly to our calls for an exemption, however the advice to workers and operators is still far too sluggish.

“Transport workers have kept this country moving throughout the pandemic.

“They are exhausted but continue to work hard every day because they know how important their work is for our communities. They shouldn’t be stressed out by confusion and chaos.

“The NSW government must provide clear advice, consult with key industries like transport before making snap decisions and announce that this exemption will stand for any future lockdown measures.”

The NSW government website has been updated to read: “If you live in the Fairfield, Liverpool, or Canterbury-Bankstown local government areas you cannot leave the local government area that you live in for work unless you are an authorised worker.”

The interventions followed a truck protest convoy as the state government instituted its “non-critical workplaces” shutdown as the Covid outbreak worsened.

Controversially, the shutdown included the construction industry.

Trucks, mainly heavy-rigid tippers and truck and dog combinations, parked on the Sydney Harbour and Anzac bridges, brining traffic to a halt.

For transport and logistics, Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown LGAs authorised worker exemptions apply to:

  • port and airport operations
  • freight, logistics, postal, courier or delivery services (including food logistics, delivery and grocery fulfilment)
  • export supply chain operators
  • the distribution of food, groceries and sanitary products for sale by supermarkets, grocery shops or other shops that predominantly sell food or drinks.

And those who work in:

  • road transport (passenger and freight) apart from taxi and rideshare services
  • rail transport (passenger and freight) including rail yards
  • water transport (passenger and freight)
  • air transport (passenger and freight)
  • pipeline and other transport
  • transport support services
  • vehicle repairs and critical maintenance including disinfection
  • towing services
  • critical safety operational staff for transport.


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