The Transport Workers’ Union has called on the Federal Government to urgently update the vaccination priority list to include frontline domestic cabin crew following a positive case that serviced five Virgin flights across three states last week.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine asked for a national ramp-up of access to the vaccine for domestic cabin crew who should be included in the “highest priority category for vaccination”.
The TWU also expressed concern over the lack of national leadership to mandate rapid testing of flight crews before and after flights, which may have prevented five flights and hundreds of passengers and their families being affected by the Delta strain outbreak.
“Aviation workers perform a crucial service to Australia, keeping families, businesses and regional communities connected. Through this important work which confines them to close quarters with hundreds of community members, they are at risk of contracting and spreading the highly contagious virus which has gripped the globe.”
“Exposure of the Delta strain has crossed state lines, sent 70 Virgin staff members into emergency isolation and put hundreds if not thousands of community members at risk, all due to a botched vaccination programme. As this situation unfolds, we fear an exponential increase in cases beyond the borders of NSW.”
“The fastest way to ensure national lockdowns and a health emergency is to put unvaccinated people onto multiple flights across the country. We need a ramp-up of vaccinations for frontline cabin crew, we need rapid testing before and after flights, and we need national leadership on clear safety protocols and enforcement of those protocols,” said Kaine.
The TWU has also expressed concern that a lack of clarity and enforcement of safety protocols in air transportation led to gaping holes in biosecurity, which the NSW Government tried to deflect by blaming a limousine driver for the outbreak.
“Over recent days we have seen a driver linked to aviation brutally scapegoated by the NSW Government rather than admit to their failure to address known cracks in the system, which TWU’s NSW branch had previously raised as a concern. We ask the government to cease its condemnation of workers just trying to do their job and concentrate on the important task of keeping our communities safe,” Kaine added.
In the letter, the TWU has requested a meeting with the Federal Government to discuss the crucial ongoing need for a national plan for aviation to deal with the health of workers and viability of aviation businesses.