December 17, 2020

Safety Audit needed for Airport Transport after Driver cops Covid

The TWU are seeking direct involvement in the auditing of the safety of all passenger transport operators performing quarantined international passenger transport from Sydney’s airport. We are looking to have that Audit now extended to cover transport operators who transport international flight crews.

Richard Olsen, NSW State Secretary, Transport Workers Union said “The Covid-19 infection of an Airport Passenger Van Driver working for Sydney Ground Transport has shown gaps in the rules surrounding Covid safety for transport workers, who are transferring international flight crew from the Sydney International Terminal to their hotels.”

The TWU remains involved in ensuring Covid safety for passenger transport drivers at work and have been doing that work with members since March, before the Pandemic was officially declared.

There are no set rules that the TWU are aware of, in place for SGT regarding Covid safe operations in the transport of international flight crews.

“Any rules that exist, are set up between the client and SGT and are not, as far as the TWU is aware, subject to the scrutiny of organisations like Transport for NSW, the NSW Police and the Australian Defence Force. All three organisations are involved heavily in the process of transporting quarantining passengers,” Mr Olsen said.

The TWU is aware that SGT vehicles (buses and vans) used to transport flight crew are not subjected to a regulated hygienic cleaning programme. The TWU are also concerned that the SGT vehicle driven by the infected driver may have been subsequently used for other activities.

Vehicles that are used for the transfer of quarantined passengers are cleaned after each trip at Sydney International Terminal.

Mr Olsen said, “We are keen to understand if SGT are providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or training to drivers in the use of PPE. That includes facemasks, gloves or the proper cleaning of buses / vans after each trip.”

At Sydney International Terminal, Bus Drivers transferring passengers to quarantine hotels are fully kitted out with PPE including masks and gloves and do not board buses until all passengers are put on board, to minimise contact. The NSW Police, Australian Defence Force and Transport for NSW are strictly enforcing compliance and Covid safety procedures are in place.

Mr Olsen said, “We remain concerned about a huge gap in quarantine security that surrounds the transfer of flight crew to hotels. This was highlighted last week when a cleaner from Minto was infected by an American air crew at Novotel Darling Harbour. This is the second case from the same cause, so unless closed off we fear it will lead to further infections.”

The following safety measures have been fought for and won by the TWU in buses across Sydney, achieved through being in touch with our membership in their workplace:

Face Masks are available for drivers. Transport for NSW has guaranteed supply of this vital PPE to bus operators.

Covid safety screens: at the urging of the TWU and bus operators, screens are being installed across the private bus network in metro and regional NSW. Transport for NSW has agreed to fund the installations. The TWU is concerned at the inaction of State Transit who we understand have not yet put in a proposal for Covid safety screens for their buses. Covid safety screens have already proved their worth in the Newcastle area where a spitting incident from a passenger occurred. The screen protected the driver from being spat on. (Around August)

TWU members began their campaign for safety in March at the start of the Pandemic. TWU members implemented the cash handling ban and the ban on using the front Opal Card reader to avoid driver and passenger contact.

Members then installed safety posters requesting social distancing on board buses by passengers. Transport for NSW has now seen the value of the poster and have created their own version of our members’ poster across the bus, train and ferry network.

TWU members originally installed tape on buses to create a buffer zone between drivers and buses. Social distancing measures that included spots on seats have then been implemented across the network. The provision of extra services to reduce passenger numbers on each bus has also been brought in to provide safer buses.

Over 1800 bus drivers are on record at the TWU calling for special leave provisions to be supplied if they have to self-isolate or if they receive Covid-19 through their job.

Enforcement is not a job for bus drivers. Bus drivers are not health experts nor are they police officers. The TWU calls on Transport for NSW and the NSW Police Transport Command to ensure they continue the  presence of Marshals and Police at transport hubs to ensure public compliance with social distancing directions.


Media Inquiries – Colin Henderson – 0405 625 208


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