Why am I delivering boutique lamps and high end furniture to Sydney containment?
Some warehouse work must continue even during the strictest containment. It is essential that food, toilet paper and toothpaste, as well as other essential items continue to be shipped, stored, consigned and delivered by logistics agents. But many warehouses distribute things we can live without, at least for several months, while battling the epidemic of a deadly disease: high fashion, musical instruments, sporting goods, party supplies or, in the case of my work, high end furniture and housewares. Instead of shutting down such operations and paying us to stay home, the Berejiklian government’s inadequate restrictions have allowed thousands of unnecessary operations to remain open, even as cases are skyrocketing.
In fact, because the foreclosure has increased demand for many of these products, many warehouse workers have never been so busy. Since the lockdown began, I have worked long shifts, met new colleagues hired to handle the extra workload, traveled around Sydney to make deliveries and take on new duties to load goods for customers at the gate. warehouse, all so that Sydney’s elite can continue to enjoy an endless supply of boutique lamps.
For a long time, the state government refused to define who was and was not an essential worker. In mid-July, Health Minister Brad Hazzard told a Guardian report that “the employer and employee would know … and therefore it will be up to the worker and the employer” to decide what is “essential” and what is not “essential”. In other words, it’s often up to the boss. This is especially true in non-unionized warehouses like mine, where staff turnover and casualization are rife and employees generally try to keep their heads down.
Even in hangars with a decent union history, workers have to contend with union leaders scrambling to campaign, alongside bosses, against public health measures. For example, when additional restrictions were announced for the local government areas of Fairfield, Bankstown and Parramatta, I received a text from my union bragging about participating in a convoy of anti-containment trucks, which according to he had earned us the “right” to continue working. There was nothing about fighting for the salaries of all those affected by the closure.
When the government released an amended list of “authorized workers”, the situation became even clearer. The list includes workers involved in “the distribution of food, groceries and sanitary products for sale by supermarkets, grocery stores or other stores primarily selling food or drink”, which seems to be a definition. reasonable. But all this is superfluous when you consider that the next category is only “warehousing”.
My workplace made the most of the vague guidelines. Some workers who live in areas of concern like Bankstown and Fairfield have been ordered to stay at home. Others just kept coming in, especially those who are vital to operations, who are assured that they are essential, or authorized, or critical, whether they are or not.
One of these workers was forced to end his fourteen-day isolation after being identified as close contact. The company repeatedly urged workers to take swab tests and return to work immediately, violating the obligation to self-isolate after testing. These requirements were lifted for some workers in areas of concern whose employers provided access to regular rapid antigen testing, but it has since appeared that the exception has been informally generalized to any testing required by the employer. As I stood in line for my last swab test, I asked a worker at the testing site if I could be asked to return to work immediately – they just shrugged. The person behind me asked the same question.
Behind all the sensational images of police taking to the streets to break the rules is the reality of the New South Wales lockdown – massive amounts of unnecessary human movement and interaction in non-essential workplaces. As the media and the government focus on unemployment restrictions like curfews and permitted working hours, many bosses have enormous flexibility and are unlikely to be enforced by the government. .