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AMWU WA stands up for FIFO Mental Health during COVID

The AMWU fought hard to get the mental health code of practice in place.

We're not going to see it thrown out during a crisis when our members are already facing more stress.

AMWU State Secretary will speak out for FIFO workers whose rosters are being affected by COVID.  A pandemic is not an excuse to throw our rights away.

Full text from article below.

Health Minister Roger Cook calls on Woodside, Chevron to balance worker wellbeing with keeping jobs amid new four week on, four week off FIFO rosters

Minister for Health Roger Cook has called on companies to balance worker wellbeing with keeping jobs as unions rail against new rosters at Woodside and Chevron operations in WA.

The WA branches of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Electrical Trades Union and the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union have spoken out about new rosters — four weeks on and four weeks off — which they say disregard the State’s mental health code of practice for fly-in, fly-out workers.

The unions claim workers would spend half of their down time in self-isolation away from their families before starting a new four week shift.

The West Australian understands salaried employees at Woodside would still be paid their normal rate during the two weeks of self-isolation but the situation would vary among contractors.

Chevron also is understood to only being putting in two week isolation periods for workers who have travelled to projects from interstate.

AMWU state secretary Steve McCartney said workers should be able to isolate at home.

“The union has fought hard to get the mental health code of practice in place, following a number of suicides due to a lack of family friendly rosters, and now that code of practice is being completely disregarded by Woodside and Chevron,” he said.

“The four week roster is known as the divorce roster, it isn’t healthy for the worker or their family who will need support during this challenging time,” he said.

“To then add two weeks of isolation away from the family is not necessary when precautions such as temperature checks and social distancing at the workplace are now being applied.

“We would support three weeks on, three weeks off with workers allowed to isolate at home; the only other option they have been given is to stand alongside their mates who have been stood down, it puts them in a very vulnerable situation.”

A Woodside spokeswoman said the “temporary” roster, which included two weeks of paid precautionary isolation, had been developed in consultation with its workforce.

“It was designed to ensure we keep our people safe by minimising the risk of transmission, while maintaining supplies of gas to WA and complying with State Government border controls and travel restrictions,” she said.

“The decision criteria applied when considering the most appropriate temporary operating model included personal safety, the mental health and wellbeing of our people, process safety, licence to operate, business resilience and workforce, community and regulatory engagement.

“With the support of mental health specialists, we have introduced additional measures to support our people and their families at work and at home as we all adapt to the temporary operating model.”

The spokeswoman said the company’s priority was to reduce the risk of transmission at its essential facilities and in the community.

Chevron’s local employees on a four on and four off roster will not be spending any time self-isolating prior to starting a new swing.

A Chevron spokeswoman said its priorities were the health and safety of its employees, contractors and the community.

“We have consulted extensively with our employees on proposed temporary changes to work pattern arrangements and appreciate their understanding, flexibility and commitment during this unprecedented time,” she said.

“We are continuously reviewing our operational activities, associated workforce levels and schedule arrangements to support the mental and physical wellbeing of our people.”

Acting Mental Health Commissioner Jennifer McGrath told a press conference today the commission had only just heard about the rosters.

She said questions may need to be raised about where the two weeks of self-isolation would take place.

Minster for Health Roger Cook said he was not going to second guess what the companies had done but noted it was important the wellbeing of workers and their families was maintained while also keeping people in work.

“We want to make sure that our resource companies are sensitive to the needs of their families and workers and their workers’ interest themselves but at the same time we want them to be able to keep people in work,” he said.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said it understood companies needed to stay modify work practices to stop the virus spreading.

“The impacts of COVID-19 have been extremely difficult for everyone,” he said.

“The State Government wants our mining and resources companies to stay open, so we can keep people in jobs.

“Companies still need to consider mental health issues and the State Government’s FIFO code of practice.”

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