Maritime Border Force staff are being made to stay on vessels when other crew members onboard test positive to COVID-19, according to the public sector union that claims the practice is a hazard.
The Community and Public Sector Union has hit out at how positive cases are being managed after it became aware of Border Force agents with the virus remaining on a vessel with coworkers who tested negative off the NT late last week.
“Officers should not be held on vessels when they have tested positive to COVID-19, nor should officers who have tested negative be held on a vessel with positive crew members, waiting to see if they catch it too,” CPSU deputy national president Brooke Muscat said.
“This is a huge physical and psycho-social hazard which no-one deserves.”
The union also claimed officers had been denied access to Rapid Antigen Tests, despite being close contacts.
In a statement to The Mandarin, Border Force did not directly address the incident the union has referred to but said it put “utmost importance” on the health and wellbeing of staff.
“The ABF has put in place robust safeguards to protect our staff, and the communities we interact with, from COVID-19,” a Border Force spokesperson said.
“These safeguards are underpinned by clinical health advice and the advice of commonwealth, state and territory health authorities.”
The agency’s spokesperson said maritime crews engage with health authorities in each jurisdiction to facilitate COVID testing and medical treatment as required.
They said Border Force’s methods and policies had avoided significant impacts on its fleets.
“These methods and policies are continuously assessed with health specialists,” the spokesperson said.
The union said it had written to home affairs minister Karen Andrews, asking her to intervene.
Comcare launched an investigation last month into Border Force’s risk management of COVID-19 in its marine unit.
Nine’s newspapers reported at least six Border Force personnel had tested positive to the virus around the new year.