Workers at Kenworth Trucks in Bayswater, Victoria will return to work today after spending the last three and a half weeks, from March 25, at home with pay while the worksite was reconfigured to make social distancing easier.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) welcomed the move to continue paying permanent employees as an example of businesses and workers being in the COVID-19 crisis together.
“This is what doing the right thing looks like,” said David Smith, AMWU Assistant National Secretary.
“Workplace health and safety has to be a priority but doing that during these unprecedented times should not come at the cost of workers being able to pay their bills.”
Steve Kearney, a motor mechanic by trade, is an AMWU delegate at Kenworth. Along with his fellow delegate, he’s been consulting with Kenworth HR on the workplace changes.
“‘When we heard about the temporary closure we were concerned they’d make people use their leave and not everyone has a lot of leave available, but then we were told they’d paying us for the period of the shut down,” said Steve.
“The feedback I got from members was that they felt relieved. They were glad Kenworth was trying to do the right thing about safely social distancing and that wasn’t going to come out of their pockets.”
As well as introducing additional safety measures, Kenworth have also implemented an afternoon shift to add further distance between workers.
“I put my hand up for an afternoon shift, that’s what I was on when I started here and I like it. So far it’s just been workers volunteering to take up that shift and the people I’ve spoken to so far were also happy to put their hand up for it,” said Steve.
“We were actually due to start ramping up production before the crisis hit and so far it seems like Kenworth are doing everything they can to get us back to work with proper social distancing and protections. We’ll keep working with Kenworth to prioritise safety and keep us operating. There’s definitely still plenty of work to be done.”