The Transport Workers’ Union has condemned the NSW Government’s decision to exempt school bus drivers from close contact isolation requirements, which threatens the health and safety of frontline public transport workers and risks student safety on Sydney’s buses.
The exemption – published late on Friday afternoon – will force school bus drivers living with someone who is COVID-positive back to work without having to isolate.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet attempted to cover-up the plan by omitting any mention of the exemption in a media release he issued the same day about public transport arrangements for returning school students.
TWU NSW State Secretary Richard Olsen said the sneaky move by the State Government risks the health and safety of school bus drivers and students.
“The NSW Government is gambling with the health and safety of school bus drivers who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep our public transport system going.” Mr Olsen said.
“Scrapping isolation requirements for close contact school bus drivers is unbelievably reckless. They interact with hundreds of students every day, many of whom haven’t been able to get fully vaccinated yet, and all this does is risk even more bus drivers catching COVID if it begins to spread in depots.”
“Someone who is a close contact is by definition the greatest risk of spreading the virus, and all of us have heard of instances where people have been asymptomatic for several days, only to test positive later on.
“Forcing close-contact bus drivers back to work on buses filled with school kids is bad enough, but trying to sneak it through on a Friday afternoon with no announcement, hoping workers & parents wouldn’t notice, is outrageous in the extreme.
“Parents have enough to worry about when their kids go back to school – they shouldn’t have to worry about whether their kids’ bus driver is being forced to work despite being a close contact.”
“The Premier owes bus drivers & parents across the state an explanation – why is he making this decision, and why did he try to sneak it through without any announcement?”
The TWU also reiterated its calls for rapid antigen testing to be rolled out at all of Sydney’s bus depots – something the union has been calling for since September.
“If the State and Federal Governments hadn’t made such a mess of the situation with rapid antigen tests, we’d be able to roll them out across the bus network and reckless decisions like this one wouldn’t be necessary.