COVID workplace update: What we know so far

With Greater Sydney in lockdown and three key LGAs – Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool – in an even harder lockdown, Victoria also in lockdown and South Australia heading into a seven day lockdown from 6pm tonight there is a lot of information businesses and employees need to stay on top of to ensure they are doing the right thing.

In relation to Sydney and the three LGA’s mentioned above there has been great confusion but in a nutshell workers who live in the above local government areas who cannot do their work from home but are employed by companies undertaking exempted activities (see below list) CAN leave their LGA to attend work – but must have a COVID test every 72 hours.

The Real Media Collective has put together some guidance to help employers and employees navigate the restrictions. You can read the advisory here.

For those working in the signage industry, the Australian Sign & Graphics Association have also put out this advice. Essentially for NSW signage installers no on-site work is permitted until after July 30 with the only exception being if the work involved installing essential signage like COVID Safe signage, or to make sites safe. The ASGA says manufacturing however is still permitted, so long as COVID Safe practices are followed.

For further clarification Sprinter also contacted the The Real Media Collective’s GM of IR, Policy and Governance Charles Watson.

“If you live in one of those three LGAs and you have to leave your specific LGA to attend work, you can be considered an authorised worker if the activity being done includes food and beverage packaging, printing or manufacture of medical equipment including PPE and the transport of that,” Watson said.

“It also relates to journalism and media services. So, for instance if the job that was on the presses was a government communication that would also be exempted.

Right now, at this hour if you work for a business within the industry who has got that type of work going on, if that is what your production activity is, then yes you could leave the LGA if you have to leave for onsite work as long as you have your COVID test very 72 hours.”

TRMC Guidance: Key points

Essentially, the print industry remains open for onsite work across the Greater Sydney region, including businesses in the Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury-Bankstown local government areas.

Workers who reside outside of those LGA’s and who are required for onsite work can physically attend work. This includes workplaces within the three listed LGA’s.

But workers who reside within any of the three LGA’s cannot leave their specific LGA for work unless they are an ‘authorised worker’. Authorised workers who can continue to attend work must have a COVID test every 72 hours.

The NSW Government listed who is deemed an ‘authorised worker’ and what the exempted activities are. The full list can be found here. But here is a guide of the ones that relate to our industry.

Manufacturing

  • production and manufacturing of food, beverages, groceries, cleaning and sanitary products
  • food and fibre processing and manufacturing
  • manufacture of food and beverage packaging
  • manufacture of coffins and caskets
  • manufacturing of medical equipment, consumables and personal protective equipment
  • manufacturing of telecommunications equipment and infrastructure

Transport postal and warehousing

  • freight, logistics, postal, courier or delivery services (including food logistics, delivery and grocery fulfilment)
  • distribution of food, groceries and sanitary products for sale by supermarkets, grocery shops or other shops that predominantly sell food or drinks
  • warehousing
  • road transport

Information media and telecommunications

  • telecommunications services, internet service providers, web search portals and data processing services
  • journalism and media services for news and other critical public communications purposes (government notices, COVID notices, signage that is critical to public communications such as in-store decals)

Conservative approach needed

The Collective’s CEO Kellie Northwood says unless the list of authorised workers receives greater clarity, the conservative approach is that if you have employees who reside in the stated three LGA’s who would need to leave their LGA to attend work, unless your production activities clearly fall within one of those listed exempt activities, those impacted employees would be restricted from attending the workplace.

“We are encouraging your business to offer any accrued leave entitlements to be taken as well as providing advice to those impacted workers to make application for individual support under the COVID Disaster Payment. We have drafted communication suggestions for your organisations to consider,” Northwood said.

TRMC: Draft communication suggestions for employees:

“Unfortunately, as a result of the newly implemented public health order in NSW (17 July 2021) and given you reside in the stated Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown or Liverpool Local Government Area and are not an Authorised Worker you will be unable to attend work from 11.59pm, Saturday, 17 July 2021 until 11.59pm, Friday, 30 July 2021.
“As a result of this situation the company will be unable to pay your normal wage. However, under these circumstances you are likely to be eligible for the Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payment and recommend you contact Services Australia to make that application.
“The company will also consider any application from an employee for annual leave or long service leave (if eligible) for this period.”

Workers being stopped on their way to work

A number of printers have expressed concerns their staff could be stopped on their way to work.

Northwood says if this happens the employee is to advise the authorities they are an ‘Authorised Worker’ and attending their workplace.

“Workers will not be arrested for attending work as an Authorised Worker, at the very worst case an individual may be fined, however if this occurs the Collective can assist in this regard. Noting that when commuting all Workers must be comply with Public Health Orders across mask-wearing, social distancing and other requirements,” she said.

Northwood has also sought to clear up concerns about the print industry in Western Australia.

“There has been some mis-reporting across the print industry in Western Australia. It is our understanding that the reported company that was shutdown did not have a COVID Safe Plan in place, was not adhering to social distancing nor using PPE,” Northwood said.

“Police attended the site and deemed it in breach of the Public Health Order and the site was shutdown. All sites operating must have an updated COVID Safe Plan in place which requires regular communication to staff and regular monitoring that the Plan is implemented and operational.”

Signage workers

The Real Media Collective says “Signage and Install workers who reside in the 3 LGAs on high alert are
not Authorised Workers at this time. Across Greater Sydney, some signage workers are
limited under ‘Construction’ Awards due to the nature of signage installation and this should
be reviewed. However, light installation, which covers the majority of our members are
within the Signage and GAPPA Awards which are not restricted under these current orders.”

Essential service definition

The Print and Visual Communication (PVCA) president Walter Kuhn said the ongoing issues around what qualifies as essential is continuing to be of concern for the sector.

“There are different rulings in different states. What the overarching rulings are is that if you are an essential service worker, meaning you work in the delivery of essential services to a community, you are exempt and are allowed to operate,” Kuhn said.

“Saying ‘print is essential’ is too broad to be specific in that respect. We would definitely love some clarity from the local government around the grey areas of what has been considered essential, but without having that clarity, we need to make some decisions based on our own understandings.

“People just need to use a bit more commonsense in their thinking of how this whole thing is happening. Printing is part of the supply chain, and we are manufacturing and supplying essential products. So then, by default, we are providing essential services.”

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