QTU advocates for teachers during the vaccine roll-out
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 4, 28 May 2021, page no.20
Earlier in the year, the Australian Education Union (AEU) wrote to the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, requesting that consideration be given to making teachers and school leaders a higher priority in the planned vaccination program.
As frontline workers and workers deemed essential throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the QTU deserved to be considered as a priority group when the federal government developed the roll-out.
The QTU also raised this issue directly with the department and with the Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young, resulting in teachers and school leaders in remote biosecurity declared communities, hospital schools and youth detention facilities being moved up the priority list for the vaccination rollout. These members work with some of the most vulnerable young people in our community, and this was a very good outcome.
The QTU continues to advocate that teachers and school leaders in special schools and those who work closely with vulnerable students should also be brought forward.
The logistical challenges our system faced early in the pandemic around access to hand washing facilities, personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser taught us a lot, and these should remain basic provisions to reduce the spread of germs and infections in our workplaces beyond the current pandemic. Additional day cleaning of high touch points has also made our workplaces safer than they were before the pandemic.
The most significant cultural and procedural shift, however, has been the requirement for staff and students who are sick to stay at home. This should be embedded into the normal operations of schools and TAFEs to make our workplaces the safest they can be.
No worker should ever feel that they have to go to work sick, as doing so increases the chance that other people could contract the illness and could result in the employee having to be off work for longer than would have been the case if they had rested and recovered at home. We have seen the positive impact of people who are sick staying away from work in the viral flu season, with sick days due to flu being almost non-existent in the second half of 2020.
Member health and safety at work and in the community will always be a key focus of the QTU. We want to see safe and healthy workplaces not only now during the current restrictions, but as a workplace right for all members once we get through the challenges of the current crisis.