Monday 17 January 2022

ACTU Statement on RATs and Masks.



Comrade Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary, sent us an email today. It’s at the bottom of this post. I fully support it. Before reading it, let me give you my own views on the matter.

Faced with a COVID outbreak of his own creation, Scott Morrison once again wants essential workers to risk their health so that society does not grind to a halt. He is right on something: we (not himself, not business people, not CEOs, not shareholders, not professors of philosophy or history or economics) are essential. We, with all our faults and weaknesses, but also with all our strength.

(If you are interested: a list of those included in that essential We.)

Unlike earlier during the pandemic, however, this time Scotty wants even sick but otherwise asymptomatic workers to attend their workplaces, in disregard of the health of uninfected coworkers and their families and – ultimately – of the public at large.
That breaches Australian law.

Not happy with that, that son of a bitch found a whole new meaning to the “rat race” term. He wants us to chase largely non-existent rapid antigen tests (aka RATs), which he neglected to do last year, when the experts adviced him.

But there’s more: he wants us to literally pay the price of his incompetence and recklessness. Buying in bulk, those tests could have cost the Commonwealth “between $3.95 and $11.45 a test” at most. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found they are being sold at some retailers for up to $70 each.

Although we are constantly lied about who really carries the weight of the world and sometimes even we forget it, deep down workers intuit it is we who are really essential. We are the collective Atlas. As such, we do not intend to let society face a crisis that could be avoided. We take this situation very seriously. So, the union movement repeatedly approached the Government for discussions. In his stubbornly mendacious way Scotty refused, sending instead his lapdogs Fraudenberg and Hunt to obfuscate the public.

As long as their pockets remain untouched business people – surprise! – do not care.

Federal Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, as is customary in him, cowardly refuses to openly support labourers.
So, we are on our own, boys and girls.
Well, if forced to, against our will, we’ll strike. So, if you are one of those patients, customers, clients, commuters, travellers, students and their parents angered by the chaos the COVID pandemic created, this is your opportunity to do something constructive, instead of releasing your temper on those who are doing their best to serve you: put pressure on that bastard now. Make noise, raise hell. Or we’ll do it in your place.
And, as always, if you are a worker, join your union and prepare to fight.

Statement from yesterday's ACTU Leadership meeting:

Leaders from national unions have today met to discuss the ongoing health and economic crisis caused by the rapid spread of Omicron.

Union leaders reported on the devastating impact the latest Covid wave is having on the health and incomes of working people.

All unions express their solidarity, respect, and deep gratitude to the health care workers of our country who are experiencing the full brunt of this wave of sick people.

The unions representing those workers report that they are exhausted and feel abandoned by governments who have encouraged “let it rip” policies.

The “let it rip” governments have failed to prepare our health system and our community, and they are responsible for Australia suffering the highest per capita infection rates in the world.

Australia is now experiencing our worst days since the start of the pandemic and the highest level of sickness ever seen in the workforce. Essential workers are being expected to put themselves in harm’s way to keep the country going and in many cases without the protections they need.

The union movement will do everything we can to keep people safe and act to slow the spread of this latest wave of the Covid pandemic.

Unions condemn the failure of the Morrison Government to respond to our requests to work with us during this crisis; or our demands for the provision of free Rapid Antigen Tests, improved masks, fixing close contact definitions and restoring support for businesses and workers.

The Morrison Government has ignored repeated calls over the last 6 months from unions regarding the urgent need to procure RATs as an essential part of our Covid defence as well as the slow pace of the booster and children’s rollout putting working people at increased risk.

We have determined that despite the Prime Minister not acting to keep working people safe, the union movement will.

Accordingly, the meeting today resolved to write to all employers reminding them of their obligation to do all that is reasonable and practical to keep workers safe.

This will require each workplace to undertake a new risk assessment for Omicron in consultation with unions, workers and their health and safety representatives. In addition, where appropriate, sector-specific plans should be developed in consultation with unions.

New measures are now needed to ensure safety at work.

For workplaces where working from home is not an option, the provision of free RATs by employers to all workers will be necessary once supply is resolved, alongside upgraded masks and improved ventilation.

Union members will take whatever steps are necessary in their workplaces to ensure they are as safe as possible.

Where employers do not fulfil their obligations, the union movement determines to do everything within its power to ensure the safety of workers and the community.

This may include ceasing work or banning unsafe practices.

Free RATs are needed for the whole community to limit the spread and keep people safe, not just essential workers.

The failure of the Federal Government to act and to provide free and accessible RATs puts us all in harm’s way.

We are calling on the community to join us and demand the Federal Government reverse this decision.

The union movement will work directly with the community to demand all members of the Federal Government be held accountable for the inaction of the Prime Minister.

In unity,

Sally McManus
ACTU Secretary

PS. Rapid Antigen Tests should be free and accessible for all. Sign and share our petition here.

Image Credits:
[A] Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders, Collins Street, Melbource. Author: Biatch. Source: WikiMedia. File released into the public domain by its author. Although not required, my usage of the file does not imply endorsement, neither of me personally nor of my usage of said file.

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