Spotless withdraws Fair Work application against staff over coronavirus outbreak

Spotless withdraws Fair Work case against staff who refused to work amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak.

Spotless has withdrawn its Fair Work application against staff at its Dandenong laundry facility after they refused to work due to fears of a coronavirus outbreak at the site.

It is understood around half of the staff working at the Dandenong laundry facility in Victoria did not show up for work on Wednesday due to safety concerns after two employees tested positive to COVID-19. According to United Workers Union, workers refused to go to work until the outbreak had been properly investigated.

In response, Ensign Services filed an application with the Fair Work Commission compelling staff to return to work. The hearing on Wednesday was adjourned until Thursday morning; however, the facility services company subsequently withdrew its application.

The Department of Health and Human Services ( DHHS) attended the workplace on Thursday, with the investigation understood to be still ongoing. United Workers Union is calling on Spotless to provide pandemic leave to staff.

“The withdrawal of this s 418 application does not solve the underlying safety and public health issues at the site but is a necessary step towards doing so,” the union said.

“Workers who had been in close contact with the positive cases had previously been directed by the employer to attend work on Tuesday and Wednesday but have now been directed to quarantine for 14 days,” the union said.

“The union understands Spotless will make workers use up their annual leave, personal leave or take unpaid time off work if they are not eligible for leave.

“There is no indication Spotless will pay pandemic leave, although the union maintains that the employer should do so considering the circumstances.”

In a statement issued to INCLEAN, Spotless said it has been working closely with the DHHS since Saturday when it provided notification that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Two other staff who had been self-isolating as a result of contact tracing have also returned positive tests. The second of these cases was confirmed today.

“The site will close from Thursday evening for deep cleaning and Spotless will implement any additional measures recommended by DHHS so that it can re-open safely.

“All employees will be advised to isolate, seek immediate testing and be cleared prior to returning to work.”

United Workers Union Director Godfrey Moase said workersacted in the interests of the entire community and should be congratulated for their service.

“Spotless Dandenong workers are low-wage migrant workers who have acted together and swiftly. They acted in the interests of the entire community and should be congratulated for their service.

“We are calling on Spotless to pay all workers who now have to self-isolate as per the DHHS guidelines, including the labour hire staff contracted in from Excel Recruitment yesterday.”

The site was shut down at close of business yesterday (Thursday 30 July). Health authorities have advised any worker who has spent more than 30 minutes at the site since July 6 is considered a close contact, who must be tested and remain in quarantine for 14 days.

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