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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Unions welcome Federal Govt’s pandemic isolation payment backflip

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Unions have welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to reinstate the $750 pandemic isolation payment.

Prime Minister Albanese made the decision on Saturday morning during a meeting of National Cabinet, following ongoing calls from the ANMF and its members for the emergency payments to be restored to support vulnerable workers.

Albanese confirmed emergency payments for people who don’t have sick leave but are forced to isolate due to COVID-19 will be reinstated from July 20 and last through to September 30.

(It) means workers will no longer have to decide between isolating with the virus and putting food on the table for their families.

ACTU secretary, Sally McManus

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has backed the move, noting 776,000 Australians missed work in June due to sickness.

“(It) means workers will no longer have to decide between isolating with the virus and putting food on the table for their families,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said in a statement.

Keeping sick workers at home will reduce the rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said.

ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said the reinstatement of disaster payments would allow the most vulnerable workers, without leave entitlements, to follow public orders and isolate if they contract COVID or need to care for others with the virus.

“We commend Prime Minister Albanese and the Health Minister Mark Butler for listening and acting on our concerns,” she said in a statement on Saturday.

“It’s crucial that our federal, state and territory governments work with us to assist our depleted health and aged care workforce, which has been crushed by the impacts of the pandemic.

ANMF federal secretary, Annie Butler

“This is a really sensible decision which will allow casual workers to receive a payment to stay home and recover from COVID — and not spread the virus through the rest of the community if they are forced to go out to work,” she said.

“Nurses, midwives and care workers need to be supported so they can continue to provide quality healthcare for all.

“It’s crucial that our federal, state and territory governments work with us to assist our depleted health and aged care workforce, which has been crushed by the impacts of the pandemic.”

The ANMF said the Prime Minister’s announcement that the PALM scheme would be expanded to include the recruitment of workers from the Pacific in the aged care sector, could provide some assistance in addressing current worker shortages in the sector.

The Aged and Community Care Providers Association welcomed the reinstated payments but cited the 2100 aged care residents who have died from COVID-19 this year.

The association’s interim chief executive Paul Sadler said the Commonwealth’s measures did not go far enough.

“It is disappointing that the government has not made an additional commitment in relation to surge workforce given the peak of this current wave is expected to hit in the next few weeks,” Mr Sadler said.

“At the beginning of this year we had aged care providers on their knees, many with up to 30 per cent of their workforce ill or close contacts and unavailable to work.”

The Australian Retailers Association is also pleased, saying the changes will stop infected workers from going to work.

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