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FAQs for Tram and Bus Division members: COVID-19

Is Passenger Transport an Essential Service?

Yes, according to the Essential Services Act- https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/1988/41/part1/sec4. The Act must be proclaimed by the Governor General to take effect and this has not happened. If it does, it means that every company, employee and union involved is at the direction of the NSW Government. There are extremely harsh penalties for non-compliance; think of it as a form of marshal law. Currently ‘essential services’ are being defined by the Department of Health and other agencies, which is why things are not so clear as to who is or isn’t an essential service.

 

What happens if someone at work is confirmed with the virus?

All employers should have a plan in place to contain and trace any potential outbreak. Please consult with your employer on their specific contingency plan.

 

Are masks mandated?

Yes, masks are mandated for transport workers according to Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order (No 3) 2021

 

How can I make sure I’m wearing my mask safely?

For people who choose to wear a mask it is important to wear it properly:

  • wash or sanitise your hands before putting it on or taking it off
  • make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face
  • do not touch the front of your mask while wearing or removing it
  • do not allow the mask to hang around your neck or under your nose
  • do not reuse single use masks; wash and dry reusable masks after use and store in a clean dry place.

 

Can I access paid leave if I need to be isolated as a result of the coronavirus? 

Yes, what type of leave depends on your situation and what you are eligible for. Special Leave depends on whether you’re a government or a private employee. 

Please check out our resources to see what is available in your state.

 

At what rate is Special Leave paid?

The Government has advised that Special Leave is to be paid at base rate or according to the Agreement or Award that governs a workplace if that is more.

 

What does ‘vulnerable’ mean in relation to who should self isolate?

Current advice for who fits criteria of ‘vulnerable’ can be found on the federal Department of Health website here-

https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/advice-for-people-at-risk-of-coronavirus-covid-19


Members should be aware that this advice is subject to change. Anyone who does not fit the categories described by the Dept of Health but considers themselves at risk should contact the Union for advice.

 

What does it mean to be ‘Stood Down’?

When a company no longer has work available, members can be ‘stood down’. This means that you will not be paid because you are not working. Leave entitlements can still be accessed and you are still on the books as an employee for when work becomes available. All unions have been lobbying for the government to continue paying contracted companies as normal, so they can pay their staff as normal. As we’ve seen, the government has not cut services even when patronage is greatly reduced. This means our members have work.

 

What about people sitting too close together on Trams and Buses and not social distancing?

It is strongly recommended by the NSW Government for the general public to physically distance on public transport. However, it is not up to transport workers to police this.

Stickers notifying passengers of the new load limits of each bus are also on the outside of the bus near the front doors, and apps that show how crowded a bus or tram is are using the new load limits in their calculations.

 

Are people really getting fined for spitting on transport workers?

You can certainly be fined and in some cases jailed for spitting on transport workers.

If this has happened, to you, please report this incident with your employer and the union if you feel that procedures are not being followed correctly.

 

How can workers guarantee they’ll be safe? 

As bus and tram drivers and other public facing workers know all too well, viral outbreaks (including the flu etc) are tough to avoid. There can never be a guarantee no driver will get sick. In fact, a lot most likely will at some point in the future – just like in the general population. 

While it may seem simple, we cannot stress enough the importance of transport workers following the general community health recommendations in regard to COVID-19. These include: 

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water. 
  • Using hand sanitiser when soap and water are not available 
  • Covering your sneeze or cough with your elbow of with a tissue. 
  • Avoiding touching your face.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. 

 

How can I stay up-to-date on the latest information? 

You can see the latest NSW Department of Health information here: 

With a constantly growing list of Frequently Asked Questions: 

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx

As well as their online symptom checker tool:

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/healthdirect-coronavirus-covid-19-symptom-checker


Transport for NSW has also set up a dedicated website here: 

stayinformed.com.au

 

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Professional Drivers' Association of Australia (PDAA) is an industrial association of employees, (an unregistered trade union) whose principal purpose is to protect and promote the interests of members in matters concerning their employment. We are a non-party political alternative to the TWU and RTBU. Our membership fees are significantly lower and we provide all the same services.