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CONFUSION from a snap rule change over exactly which types of transport workers are defined as ‘essential’ during the current Sydney lockdown, plus a pause on construction work until August, sparked anger from truck drivers who held a protest convoy across the Harbour and Anzac bridges today.

In response to the change, the Transport Workers Union (TWU NSW) and the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO NSW) wrote jointly to the NSW State Government calling for clarification that all transport workers are exempt now – and in future – from restrictions that would prevent them from carrying out ‘essential work’ that NSW citizens rely on, they explain.

Following pressure from the transport and retail industries, the NSW Premier provided an exemption to its earlier announced restrictions in hotspot LGAs (Local Government Areas) for, “…any person who performs work that is essential for the continued operation of food retailing, warehousing and distribution, transportation (including workers in click and collect call centres).” the unions say.

The clarification sought from the NSW Government is to confirm that the exemption covers all essential transport workers, including aviation workers, bus drivers, waste workers, taxi and rideshare drivers, the unions explain.



Major bus depots servicing Sydney’s Inner West and regional bus routes are inside and just outside of the Fairfield LGA, the unions highlight. According to the 2016 census, more than 20,000 transport workers live in the Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown LGAs, it adds.

TWU NSW Branch secretary Richard Olsen says the NSW Government should follow Victoria’s lead in deeming transport worker groups as essential.

“We welcome the exemption which reflects the essential work done by transport workers, but we require urgent clarification that all transport workers – including those providing critical passenger transport, air freight and waste removal services – will not face penalties for going to work,” said Olsen.

“Without this clarification, we will see waste piling up in our streets, passengers stranded at bus stops, and freight left unattended at airports.


“The snap announcement today is further evidence of rushed policy change, which severely overlooked the essential nature of transport.

“This oversight must be rectified by the implementation of a standing exemption to ensure transport workers are automatically protected against future snap rule changes and confusing information.

“Transport workers have been the backbone of Australia throughout this pandemic. They’ve kept shelves stocked with essential supplies and got people safely to testing and vaccination centres. They’ve been operating at extreme demand for the last 18 months and they are stressed.

“We’re calling on the NSW Government to stop blaming and penalising workers for holes in biosecurity and instead allow them to just do their jobs in peace,” he said.



ARTIO NSW secretary Laurie D’Apice says transport operators were not consulted or forewarned of the tighter restrictions announced today.

“Transport operators within and outside of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown LGAs were thrown into chaos during the NSW Premier’s press conference today,” D’Apice explained.

“We’re pleased to see that the NSW Government acted quickly to provide an exemption for transport; however, the confusing information will still have an impact on transport operations as employers and workers scramble to understand which rules now apply.

“It’s important that this situation be avoided in the future and the way to do that is to categorise transport workers as essential and exempt from snap policy decisions,” he said.



As a comparison, the Victorian State Government has deemed the following groups as essential workers:

* Public transport, including taxis, rideshare services and other public passenger services;

* Air transport (including the operation of airports);

* Port operations;

* Freight services (including postal and courier services);

* A transport, freight or logistics driver

* Domestic and commercial waste and resource recovery services (including collection, treatment and disposal services and transfer stations).

A copy of the letter sent can be found here:

ABC magazine has contacted TfNSW for any updates.

Photography: stock

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