COVID-19 quarantine exemptions must extend to WARR

11 January 2022

Chronic staff shortages continue to plague numerous essential industries across Australia, including the waste and resource recovery (WARR) sector, where some 30% of staff are in isolation at any one time due to current restrictions on close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), which represents the 50,000-strong WARR workforce nationally, supports the national plan to review quarantine and isolation rules for essential workers, and calls on both the Prime Minister and state premiers to ensure that frontline workers in the WARR industry are also included in all isolation and quarantine exemptions so we can keep collecting material and avoid another type of public health crisis.

“The collection, transport, and processing of waste are essential to protecting community and environmental health. At the moment, a third of our frontline workers are out of action due to the closed contact quarantine rules, which risks services being ground to a halt. If this were to happen, Australia will face significant environmental and hygiene issues,” WMRR CEO, Ms Gayle Sloan, said.

“The industry is finding alternatives, including running limited services on weekends, but this is only a short-term and unsustainable measure given the forecasted continuation of staff shortages. As federal discussions continue this week, we are urgently seeking exemptions for frontline waste workers and ask that the Prime Minister include in his definition of essential, those that provide WARR collection and transportation services across retail, clinical, and kerbside settings.

“The WARR industry is an essential sector that provides vital services to communities and businesses. The same flexibility that is safely awarded to other essential industries must also be provided to frontline WARR workers. This extends to priority supply of rapid antigen tests to ensure that WARR services can continue in a safe and sustainable way to mitigate any risk on the health and safety of communities across Australia.

“We call on all levels of government to work with us to ensure the continued safe provision of our essential service to the community,” Ms Sloan said.