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NSW decision to allow critical workers who are close contacts back to work ‘reckless’, union says

ABC News: Harriet Tatham

The NSW government’s decision to allow essential asymptomatic close contacts to come back to work without isolating is “reckless”, a union says.

The COVID-19 exemption is now in force for critical workers in the food, logistics and manufacturing sectors who become close contacts, similar to those previously introduced for health workers.

However, the Transport Workers Union said scrapping isolation requirements was “beyond reckless”.

“Workers are being thrown to the wolves by a government that continues to ignore all the warnings,” said the union’s national secretary, Michael Kaine.

“We know, even if you’re asymptomatic, you can still spread the virus. Requiring potentially sick people to go to work won’t make supply chains healthy.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) acting secretary Liam O’Brien said already exhausted workers were concerned the new rules would only cause infections to rise and further issues with the supply chain.

“All we are going to do is add and increase the infections that are happening in workplaces,” Mr O’Brien said.

“That will, in the medium term, cripple our supply chains.

“[Employees] are only going to be even more anxious about catching COVID at work.”

Premier Dominic Perrottet has defended the decision, saying it was a necessary measure to ensure the state has continued access to essential goods amid mass shortages of products in supermarkets across the country.

“We have to ensure distribution networks are secure. We’ve seen globally this is a substantial challenge,” Mr Perrottet said.

“I believe the changes we made today get that balance right.”

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