Paid pandemic win at Spotless

Workers have won the right to paid pandemic leave at Spotless laundry. 212210_07 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Spotless commercial laundry in Dandenong South have won their fight for paid pandemic leave as it remains locked down in Covid quarantine, their union says.

Migrant workers who are ineligible for state and federal pandemic leave schemes will be paid leave by Spotless, according to the United Workers Union.

It means the quarantined workers will receive a minimum $150 a day of pandemic leave.

“This is an important step forward to ensuring low-wage migrant workers can take the swift workplace actions they need to protect the entire community from the spread of Covid-19,” UWU executive director Godfrey Moase said.

“While this goes to the core needs of our members at this site, more needs to be done.

“Every Australian worker needs access to paid pandemic leave now and a living income while they can’t work for an extended period of time, no matter their employment or migration status.”

An anonymous employee said the paid leave would help workers “take care of bills” until the company re-opens on 7 August, pending approval by the DHHS.

The majority of staff depend on this income, the worker said.

In a statement, Spotless told Star Journal that it was ineligible for the federal JobKeeper payment scheme.

Those without leave entitlements could apply for $750 weekly payments from the company’s Downer Hardship Fund.

The fund was established by contributions from owner company Downer and Spotless directors and executives.

“We have advised casual employees of the COVID-related financial support offered by the Victorian State Government and Federal Government,” Spotless stated.

From 252 Covid-19 tests, four workers have tested positive since 25 July.

Three of them were family from the same household and were picked up in initial contact tracing, Spotless stated.

Nine of the tests were pending.

On 30 July, the site was closed and deep cleaned after the third worker tested positive.

That day, Spotless also abandoned attempts to force reluctant staff back to work despite the Covid-19 infections.

Employees scheduled to work the next day received ordinary pay.

Spotless originally claimed that no other workers had direct contact with the first infectious case.

It directed 18 “casual contacts” to self-isolate at home, and for the rest of the workforce back on deck.

It has now tested 252 workers who had been on-site for 30 minutes or more between 6-30 July. They have all be self-isolated.

Spotless’s pandemic plan at Dandenong included floor decals and cameras to ensure social distancing, temperature checks, staggered break and finish times to reduce congestion, zoning of employees and physical barriers.

Face masks were worn at the factory two weeks before the directive was issued by the State Government, Spotless stated.

It also introduced sanitizer wipes and daily fumigation at shared amenities. Touch surfaces were cleaned four times a day.

On 30 July, Premier Daniel Andrews nominated workplace transmissions as a major factor in the rising Covid case numbers.

He urged people to stop going to work while Covid-positive or while sick and awaiting test results, he said.

“This is a test for all of us. This silent enemy will win if we let it get the better of us.

“Many more people will die and opening up will be only further away.”