As Victoria battles against its second wave of COVID-19, the electrical industry remains open, safe and going strong, in no small part due to the efforts of the union.
In early March, ETU Victoria was working with our fellow construction unions and employer associations to develop COVID-safe plans for our worksites. The Department of Health and Human Services approved our best practice model for reducing the risk of transmission in our workplaces, as well as clear procedures should a positive be detected onsite.
These measures have included:
- maintaining physical distancing;
- COVID-friendly configuration of common areas;
- staggered start and break times;
- use of good hygiene and PPE where appropriate; and
- COVID screening before entry to the site.
As we ride the second wave of the pandemic, we have added:
- daily temperature checks to all workers as they enter the gates;
- training in contact tracing by the DHHS for HSRs; and
- mask wearing before it became mandatory across greater Melbourne.
As a result, the industry has remained safe and hygienic, and we have the records to prove it. Since May, the IncoLink bus – proudly sponsored by ETU Victoria – has been travelling the state, testing thousands of workers on the job and delivering flu shots. With the exception of one isolated incident, there have been very few positive cases and no transmission of the virus on any of our sites.
As we worked with industry to guarantee the safety of our members at work, we were hard at work to support other needs our members might face in the crisis. Knowing that financial relief was going to be critical in some cases, we worked with our industry entitlement fund, Protect, to ensure emergency stand down payments of up to $4,000 to members who had been stood down without pay. We worked with our banking partner, Unity, to ensure relief for members experiencing mortgage stress, and with our long service leave scheme, Co-Invest, to enable early access to long service leave.
As a union we have made all training in our state-of-the-art training centre, The Centre for U, free to all members. The Centre for U is also running a series of free webinars that cover mental health issues, alcohol and drug awareness, first aid training and more. Due to the recently introduced mask mandate we have ordered 20,000 reusable Australian-made masks and will soon be mailing them to each of our members along with further mental health resources.
All of these support measures - along with information on other support services and financial assistance, COVID guidelines, general advice, and health and wellbeing were combined in a comprehensive COVID-19 guidebook which was printed and distributed to all of ETU Victoria’s 18,000 members.
Fortunately, only a very small percentages of our members’ employment has been impacted by the crisis so far, but there’s no denying times are tough in Victoria right now. However, as ETU Victoria Secretary, Troy Gray, recently said, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do. And our members of the mighty ETU are the toughest going around.”