The Transport Workers Union of NSW (TWU) is calling on the NSW Government to immediately introduce workplace rapid antigen testing in bus depots across Greater Sydney.
The call comes after the NSW Government’s decision last Friday to remove workplace rapid antigen testing as a COVID-19 control measure available under the Public Health Orders. Regular PCR testing requirements for authorised workers were also axed last week.
As a consequence, from Monday vaccinated bus drivers from LGAs of concern will potentially be working alongside unvaccinated passengers and colleagues from other LGAs with no COVID testing requirements in place.
The TWU has been in discussions with Transport for NSW for several days since the announcement was made, voicing the concerns of workers and urging the Government to implement rapid antigen testing before the measures come into effect this coming Monday 6 September.
Should the Government fail to address bus drivers’ concerns, hundreds of drivers across Sydney are prepared to take whatever action is needed from Monday, in order to protect themselves and their passengers from these risks.
TWU NSW State Secretary Richard Olsen said while drivers were reluctant to take any action that would disrupt services for the community, the NSW Government has forced their hand and left them with no other option to make have their concerns taken seriously.
“The NSW Government needs to fix this immediately – they can’t expect thousands of bus drivers across Sydney to continue working under these unsafe conditions.
“The NSW Government can’t rely on vaccines alone to keep bus drivers and passengers protected from COVID, particularly with first-dose vaccination rates in some areas still only around 60%” Mr Olsen said.
“While vaccination is our most effective defence against COVID-19, it is not a silver bullet as there is still a risk of vaccinated workers unknowingly transmitting the virus to colleagues and/or passengers who may not be vaccinated.”
“Introducing rapid antigen testing and PCR surveillance testing for public transport workers would add an additional layer of defence and significantly reduce the risk of COVID-positive workers unintentionally spreading the virus to colleagues and passengers.”
“The NSW Government saying they’ll start a pilot program at just a handful of depots isn’t nearly good enough. We’re 18 months into this pandemic, this isn’t the time for pilot programs – we need rapid antigen testing in every bus depot in Sydney.”
The risk posed by a lack of testing for drivers has been demonstrated over the course of this week, with several vaccinated bus drivers testing positive after working for several days while unknowingly infectious. In at least one of these cases, the driver only got tested because he was unaware that the mandatory surveillance testing requirements were no longer in force. Had these drivers been subjected to rapid antigen testing on arrival at their depots, they likely would have been detected much earlier.
MEDIA CONTACT: Mitch Wright – 0430 186 590