Industry bodies urge COVID-19 exemptions for cleaning sector

BSCAA, ISSA call on state and federal governments to extend relaxed isolation requirements to cleaning industry.

The Building Service Contractors Association of Australia (BSCAA) and ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, are calling on state and federal governments to extend the relaxed isolation requirements to the cleaning industry.

Kim Puxty, national president of the BSCAA, said the cleaning industry is currently suffering from chronic staff shortages.

“With the introduction of changes to the requirements for confirmed cases and close contacts to critical workers/industries not having to isolate, it was disappointing to see the cleaning industry not included on this list,” Puxty said.

“The BSCAA has written to both state and federal governments requesting they extend the relaxed isolation requirements to the cleaning industry. It would be ideal to have the cleaning industry listed as an essential or critical industry but that isn’t going to happen overnight, but we do need a solution now which is in the form of relaxing the isolation requirements.”

Puxty said the industry has been forced to find alternatives to deal with staff shortages, but these alternatives are short-term solutions and not designed to be sustainable over the long term.

“With staff shortages coupled with the isolation requirements due to close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, it is imperative now more than ever that the government responds quickly. Relax the isolation requirements for the cleaning industry.

“Our industry provides a service that keeps our community and other essential workers safe. How long can sectors like transport, health, schools, aged care, and many other community areas cope without our services, the reality is without staff our services cannot be carried out effectively or at all.”

Lauren Micallef, Oceania manager of ISSA Australia, said the association has written to the Prime Minister and state premiers requesting all segments of the cleaning industry and its supply chain are recognised as ‘critical workers’.

“Each segment of the cleaning industry (manufacturers, distributors, and cleaning service providers) play a critical role in providing cleaning and disinfectant products, equipment and services that are indispensable in the effort to combat the spread of COVID-19,” Micallef said.

“This is especially relevant at present as our cleaners and products are required for the cleaning and sanitising of sites critical to the function of the nation: education, aged care, retail, healthcare and the wider business community.”

Micallef said ISSA has requested the cleaning industry be included in the parameters surrounding critical workers and their ability to leave self-isolation if they have no symptoms and are not involved in a role that has direct customer and/or public facing requirements.

ISSA has also requested support for the industry in relation to access to rapid antigen tests, especially for front-line cleaners.

“We urge [Federal Government] to declare as ‘critical workers’ the following segments in the cleaning industry and the supply chain that supports it. Also, to present this to the National Cabinet as a priority for critical industry support:

  • Manufacturers and distributors of cleaning equipment, cleaning products, disinfectants, hand sanitisers and other such products that are used to clean and disinfect residences, commercial buildings, institutional facilities, and other similar built environments.
  • Providers of cleaning and disinfection services for healthcare, aged care, commercial buildings, institutional facilities and other similar built environments.”

COVID-19 quarantine exemptions must extend to waste, says WMRR

Chronic staff shortages continue to plague numerous essential industries across Australia, including the waste and resource recovery (WARR) sector, where some 30 per cent of staff are in isolation at any one time due to current restrictions on close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), which represents the 50,000-strong WARR workforce nationally, is also campaigning for frontline workers in the WARR industry are included in all isolation and quarantine exemptions so we can keep collecting material and avoid another type of public health crisis.

“The collection, transport, and processing of waste are essential to protecting community and environmental health. At the moment, a third of our frontline workers are out of action due to the closed contact quarantine rules, which risks services being ground to a halt. If this were to happen, Australia will face significant environmental and hygiene issues,” WMRR CEO, Gayle Sloan, said.

“The industry is finding alternatives, including running limited services on weekends, but this is only a short-term and unsustainable measure given the forecasted continuation of staff shortages. As federal discussions continue this week, we are urgently seeking exemptions for frontline waste workers and ask that the Prime Minister include in his definition of essential, those that provide WARR collection and transportation services across retail, clinical, and kerbside settings.

“The WARR industry is an essential sector that provides vital services to communities and businesses. The same flexibility that is safely awarded to other essential industries must also be provided to frontline WARR workers. This extends to priority supply of rapid antigen tests to ensure that WARR services can continue in a safe and sustainable way to mitigate any risk on the health and safety of communities across Australia.

“We call on all levels of government to work with us to ensure the continued safe provision of our essential service to the community,” Sloan said.

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