Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has issued a statement, asking Victorian businesses and workers to refrain from going to work as Stage 4 restrictions come into effect. Andrews acknowledged that “a job means financial security — but it also means stability, purpose and the foundation to build your future”. However, Andrews also stated that unprecedented steps are necessary to limit the movement of people and therefore the movement of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Andrews announced three lists that will apply during Stage 4 restrictions. These changes, in addition to the previous restrictions including working from home requirements, will mean around one million Victorians will no longer move around the state for work.
All open businesses and services were given until 11:59 pm Friday 7 August to enact a ‘COVIDSafe plan’ focused on safety, prevention and response in the event that COVID-19 is linked to the workplace.
Industries that cannot close that have seen a number of COVID-19 cases will have to make changes to make the workplaces safer. That includes mandated reductions to the number of workers onsite. In the meat industry, the workforce will be scaled back to two-thirds. Unlike other changes, and recognising the risk these sites have posed in Australia and around the world, this will apply to abattoirs in Melbourne and across the state.
Warehousing and distribution centres in Melbourne will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time. The construction sector will also move to pilot light levels; this will allow the industry to keep going while limiting the number of people onsite. For major construction sites, this means the absolute minimum required for safety, but no more than 25% of the normal workforce onsite. Small-scale construction will be limited to a maximum of five people onsite.
To date, the Victorian Government has almost halved the number of people onsite on some of its biggest projects. It will now go through project by project, line by line, to ensure they are reduced to the practical minimum number of workers. Workplaces that are continuing to operate will also have additional requirements, including extra personal protection equipment (PPE), staggering shifts, staggering breaks, health declarations and more support for sick workers to ensure they stay home. Workers in abattoirs will don full PPE (gowns, masks and shields) and will be subject to routine testing.
Andrews stated that the changes will be enforceable, with the onus on employers to ensure they do the right thing by their workers. Employer responsibility includes ensuring those with symptoms, and potentially the virus, do not come to work. Work will be done in consultation with industry and unions. For businesses and industries that fall into grey areas when it comes to their operation, the state’s dedicated Industry Coordination Centre within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions will consider their case. Andrews also stated that businesses suffering significant losses or closing due to the current restrictions will receive support through the expanded Business Support Fund.
“I understand this will have real and heavy consequences for a number of businesses, workers and their families. We’ll do everything we can to lighten that load,” Andrews said. Businesses in regional Victoria can apply for a $5000 grant while those in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire can apply for up to $10,000 in recognition of spending longer under restrictions. “What is clear is that if we don’t do this now, if this doesn’t work, then we’ll need a much longer list of complete shutdowns,” Andrews said.
“It’s hard to imagine what a Stage 5 might look like,” Andrews added. “But it would radically change the way people live. Not just rules on when and where you can go shopping — but restrictions on going shopping at all.” Andrews concluded his statement by noting that the only way to get people back to work and businesses back open is by making these tough decisions and by Victorians abiding by them.
The situation of COVID-19 in Australia is changing rapidly; for more information on COVID-19 in the state of Victoria, visit www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus.
For the latest information on Australia’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19, visit www.australia.gov.au.
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