COVID-vulnerable workers need support to stay safe

Workers with chronic health conditions and other risk factors in COVID19 affected areas should not be forced to choose between their incomes or their safety, Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) National Secretary Mark Diamond said today.


Mr Diamond said the Federal Government had a responsibility to provide a safety net payment to enable COVID vulnerable workers to stay at home while the pandemic continues.

Earlier this week the ACTU National Executive endorsed a resolution proposed by the RTBU supporting a COVID Vulnerable Worker Payment.

The COVID Vulnerable Worker Payment would enable at-risk workers to voluntarily stay home during the pandemic and continue to be paid their full salary by their employer. Their salary should be guaranteed and funded by the Federal Government.

“While some workers can choose to work from home, or have the option to be redeployed to areas where they are not at risk, this is not the case for everyone,” Mr Diamond said.

“For workers with underlying health conditions in areas like Melbourne, simply going to work means putting their life on the life.

“That’s why we need a stronger safety net to make sure people who genuinely need to take extra precautions can do so without sacrificing their livelihoods.”

Risk Groups

Mr Diamond said the Federal Health Department had advice on the type of workers who are most at risk of severe or moderate illness from COVID-19.

Workers likely to suffer severe illness due to COVID-19 include those who:

  • are 70 years of age or over
  • have had an organ transplant and are on immune suppressive therapy
  • have had a bone marrow transplant in the last 24 months
  • are on immune suppressive therapy for graft versus host disease
  • have blood cancer eg leukaemia, lymphoma or myelodysplastic syndrome (diagnosed within the last 5 years)
  • are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy

Workers likely to suffer moderate illness due to COVID-19 include those who:

  • have chronic renal (kidney) failure
  • have heart disease (coronary heart disease or failure)
  • have chronic lung disease (excludes mild or moderate asthma)
  • have a non-haematological cancer (diagnosed in the last 12 months)
  • have diabetes
  • have severe obesity with a BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2
  • have chronic liver disease
  • have some neurological conditions (stroke, dementia, other)
  • have some chronic inflammatory conditions and treatments
  • have other primary or acquired immunodeficiency
  • have poorly controlled blood pressure.