The situation with coronavirus in our community continues to evolve rapidly. This is incredibly challenging and difficult for everyone, including AEU members. Be assured the AEU is advocating strongly for your health and safety, as well as your salary and conditions, as circumstances continuously change.
AEU members are rightly concerned that health officials and politicians have provided insufficient assurance and advice to all staff working in schools, TAFEs, Early Childhood settings, Disability Services and AMES about coronavirus and the health and safety of their workplaces.
The announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the new restriction to limit gatherings of more than 100 people does not apply to kindergartens, schools, and TAFE requires clearer explanation.
The AEU notes that the continued advice from the Federal and Victorian Chief Medical Officers is that educational settings remain open. We also note that the advice from the Department of Health and Human Services is for educational settings to implement social distancing measures including “planning ways to reduce in-person contact for students and staff” and “enable separation of students and avoid queuing, where possible”.
There is no explicit and detailed advice about how public education workplaces are to implement such measures.
The AEU has advocated directly with government and the Department on behalf of members, raising your concerns. The government and Department have taken these concerns seriously in meetings and discussions with the DET Secretary and the Minister's office. They are beginning to respond positively and we expect there will be further support and resources announced in the coming days.
We have conveyed the expectation that the government will guarantee that public education workplaces will have the necessary support and resources to enact social distancing and hygiene measures, specifically by ensuring that:
staff and students/children keep a distance of 1.5 metres whenever possible there is sufficient soap, alcohol-based hand sanitisers, toilet paper, tissues and sinks so that all people at the workplace can access them on a frequent and systematic basis all frequently touched surfaces are regularly disinfected frequently used objects are regularly cleaned and sanitised.
In addition, given the more complex circumstances in supporting students and people with disabilities, the department must provide specific and detailed guidance for members working in these settings.
The safety measures outlined above are advised by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Commonwealth Department of Health.
The union expects the government to directly advise the AEU, our members and the broader community about what actions they will take if the above safety measures cannot be implemented.
The AEU will continue to demand that the government meets it obligation to member health and safety. Should you be unable to implement the safety measures outlined above then all members in schools who are affected should make a report using EduSafe. All members in other sectors should use the appropriate health and safety reporting mechanisms. AEU will actively follow up with the Department and other employers any reports that are made.
In addition, the AEU federal office will immediately write to the newly formed National Cabinet outlining the urgent issues facing the profession in every state or territory. We understand the next meeting will occur this Friday.
We are meeting this afternoon with Victoria’s Chief Medical Officer and senior department officers to outline the expectations of AEU members.
We will continue to keep members informed of any new developments regarding the Coronavirus.