COVID case at Brisbane airport shows urgency of ensuring vaccine priority

Transport Workers' Union

A COVID case at Brisbane airport shows the urgency of prioritising all aviation workers nationally for vaccination, warns the Transport Workers’ Union.

The case involves a vaccinated ground crew but has put other workers at the airport into self-isolation.

A survey of aviation workers shows even lower rates than national figures among workers in Queensland with just 24% fully vaccinated and 52% having had no vaccine shots. Nationally one third of aviation workers are fully vaccinated with 46% unvaccinated.

Workers at Brisbane Airport also have concerns about cleaning standards and want to see Brisbane Airport Corporation putting in place better standards to ensure deep cleans to reduce the risk of spread.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the need to act is urgent.

“Every day that aviation workers are not on the priority list for vaccination is another day when our defences against COVID are exposed. We have presented the evidence of low vaccine rates and have written several times to the Prime Minister urging him to act. Workers are telling us that lack of availability of the vaccine and the risk of losing pay are obstacles. The Federal Government has the power to change this and to make sure the risk of spread at the airports is reduced. It is simply failing to act,” he said.

“Queensland aviation workers like all other airport workers are working on the frontline of COVID as the spread comes through the movement of people. They have the right to be safe in their jobs and they must be protected. This protection must come with assurances that workers forced to self-isolate, take time out for vaccination or to deal with the effects of the vaccine will be paid in full,” Kaine added.

“The Federal Government must put in place a national plan for aviation on the pandemic. This should include vaccination priority, cleaning and PPE standards for workers at airports and a road map to ensuring the industry’s survival.”

One third of Queensland respondents to the survey said they could not get a vaccination due to limited availability or no time slots. The survey shows 27% said it was difficult to organise time off with vaccinations organised in advance and rosters only coming out ahead of the vaccine date.

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