The United Workers Union (UWU), the union for many essential frontline and public-facing workers, is concerned members checking vaccination status will be put in unsafe situations when NSW reopens on Monday and has demanded clear rules and tough penalties for cowboy bosses.
While UWU members in industries like hospitality are keen to return to work, issues like extreme casualisation mean workers fear it will be hard to speak up about safety issues and abuse, unless the government urgently steps in to support frontline staff.
Union members are also worried it will be left to junior and untrained staff to check customers’ vaccination status, and they fear many employers will not follow government mandated COVID safety rules. Industries like hospitality have an appalling record when it comes to complying with legal obligations to pay workers properly and provide a safe workplace free from harassment and abuse.
Union frontline workers are calling on NSW State Government to urgently issue:
- Clear binding rules on bosses to protect public facing workers, and penalties for non-compliance,
- Proper training and support for public facing staff, and
- Better public education and a simple, consistent way to verify vaccination status.
“We want the NSW Government and employers to ensure that we aren’t leaving the casually employed person, potentially in their teens or early twenties bearing the brunt of any pushback that might arise from vaccination requirements for people wanting to enter venues again,” UWU National Secretary Tim Kennedy said.
“We know that the best way to be Covid-safe at work is to be vaccinated, and our Union has always supported Australia’s vaccination program and the advice from our public health experts. But as NSW and other states begin to open back up and people get used to Covid-normal, we can’t leave some of our most precarious workers to shoulder all the burden or potential risk.
“We need a direct and ongoing dialogue with Government and employers and their associations, so workers’ safety is prioritised and public education helps to make this a positive experience for everyone.”
UWU is also warning the Federal Morrison Government to not cut disaster payments until hospitality and tourism jobs have properly recovered.
“Today there are 25 percent fewer jobs than there were pre-pandemic and while increasing vaccinations rates are a positive sign, we are not out of the woods yet. In the meantime people out of work deserve certainty and support,” Kennedy said.
Lucy, a 34-year-old bartender who works in a Surry Hills pub, said:
“The hospitality industry is famous for cutting corners and treating staff like we are disposable. I am really worried about the safety of staff and customers as the industry reopens.”
“On industry Facebook groups there are so many ads going up advertising for staff, with some bosses declaring openly they are not going to enforce the vaccine mandate.
“At my venue I am already worried that they have told me they are not going to hire a security guard to check patrons’ vaccination status. Our venue is seriously understaffed already, and we can’t afford to lose a whole staff member to check customers’ vaccination status as it will put us under even more pressure. Checking patrons’ vaccination status is a critical task and it needs to rigorously enforced.
“A lot of hospo venues are not well ventilated and it’s imperative that everyone there is vaccinated, otherwise covid will spread like wildfire. We need the NSW Government put the health and safety of workers and patrons before the profits of hospo bosses.”
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