Container terminal operator Hutchison Ports withheld coronavirus information from their workforce while allowing the site to operate after they knew of a positive COVID-19 test result. The positive worker had undertaken six shifts in the terminal since March 24. A second case has now been revealed amongst the terminal workforce.
Despite these cases, Hutchison refuses to share potential exposure and contact information with the workforce or the union, further risking workplace and community transmission due to company inaction.
The Maritime Union of Australia described the situation as surreal and the company as blind to the world and current social reality. Despite those who worked between March 24 to April 3 at the Port Botany terminal being at risk of exposure, the matter is not being treated with the seriousness it deserves.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said: “It’s like Hutchison are not part of this community crisis and global pandemic. They just want to work away like it’s business as usual. We think hiding facts about exposure to COVID-19 from workers and risking their transmission is a criminal act.
“Where is Ensuring Integrity for Hutchison? This is criminal behaviour.”
It is believed approximately 30 wharfies at Hutchison are currently in isolation due to COVID-19, but the company is still not revealing the facts to the workforce or union. Around 17 of these wharfies have been isolated by the NSW Health on the basis of company information.
The MUA fears the figures may be much higher as the union has received calls from concerned workers who identified their exposure to the infected worker but have been omitted from NSW Health follow-up.
“We don’t believe the company has been thorough for whatever reason in identifying potential exposure on the job,” Mr Smith said.
“People have been missed. We think by failing to report all workers who came into direct contact with machinery or workplace facilities used by the workers with the confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses leaves huge gaps that the community will pay for.
“Places like change rooms were also excluded as a potential source of transmission.
“The methodology that Hutchison Ports had used to identify potential COVID-19 contact has been denied to workers and the union, leading to strong suspicions that commercial interests are driving the process rather than health and safety outcomes or the best interests of the workforce and the community.”
The MUA is demanding an urgent meeting with NSW Health and the company, seeking full disclosure around all matters and allowing it to become involved and assist in future plans.