Hutchison workers win strong COVID-19 protection measures

Maritime workers at Hutchison Ports in Sydney. Photo: Martime Union of Australia

After a 10-day shutdown, maritime workers at Hutchison Ports Australia (HPA) Sydney terminal returned to work with some of the most stringent COVID-19 measures in place.

A positive COVID-19 case was identified on April 3, and a second case notified shortly after.

Hutchison took six days to reveal which shifts had been worked by the infected worker, and only after the New South Wales Department of Health intervened.

Now, about 50 workers are in, or have been in, isolation.

Hutchison supplied a “close contact” list to the department, but that list doubled in size after the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) workplace Health and Safety Committee had input at the request of the NSW Chief Health Officer.

The MUA has called on all waterfront companies to fully cooperate and include the union and workers in COVID-19 contact and tracing incidents. This is important when workplace measures to combat the transmission of the virus are being implemented.

If HPA had cooperated from the start by including workers, the MUA said, the risks to the workforce and the community could have been dealt with more thoroughly and efficiently.

HPA has now agreed to a comprehensive set of measures including: shift and physical distancing protocols; cleanliness measures across the entire terminal, including machinery; prior to each shift communicating with members not to come to work if they are ill; and personal protective equipment for all workers.

A COVID-19 committee has also been set up, with workplace representation, to monitor and review all protocols and procedures.