Unions push for disability pandemic leave

Unions have launched a fresh push to extend paid pandemic leave to disability workers after an outbreak at a Melbourne group home.

The Fair Work Commission last week ruled all residential aged care workers including nurses were entitled to two weeks paid leave.

But there are growing calls for wider pandemic leave, which unions, Labor and the Greens have been pushing for during the past five months.

The Health Services Union on Monday called for disability workers to be included in paid pandemic leave after a 10 infections linked to a group home in Melbourne.

“The recent outbreak of COVID-19 at the Aruma disability group home in Pascoe Vale highlights the urgent need for paid pandemic leave to be extended to disability services,” the union’s submission to the commission says.

HSU national industrial officer Rachel Liebhaber said Victoria’s state of disaster and new cases across the state justified the extension.

In her submission she said the leave would protect elderly and disabled people while also providing a safety net for low-paid workers.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed the federal government was looking at pandemic leave but noted some major companies were already offering it.

He also pointed to the Victorian government offering a $1500 payment to workers without sick leave who need to self-isolate.

Labor industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said without a universal scheme there would be more community transmission, outbreaks and economy-smashing lockdowns.

“Every day the Morrison government delays on paid pandemic leave puts Australian lives and livelihoods at risk,” he said on Monday.

Last week, the Australian Services Union renewed its push to have pandemic leave extended to disability, community services and crisis accommodation workers.

In a submission to the Fair Work Commission, ASU national secretary Robert Potter called for the extension to be made urgently.

“Like aged care workers, they need the protection of the safety net to isolate without being thrown into poverty,” he said.

The Victorian Ambulance Union told the commission the measures should be extended to non-emergency patient transport (NEPT) workers.

“In the midst of these current outbreaks, many NEPT providers and their employees are now being called upon to transfer residents who have been infected with COVID-19 from aged care facilities to hospitals,” its submission said.

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