Australian Border Force Marine Unit officers have been forced to isolate onboard ABF vessels at sea due to Morrison Government failure to heed warnings from workers about wholly inadequate Covid-19 safety plans.

This has forced the Border Force workers’ union, the Community and Public Sector Union, to seek an urgent industrial intervention from the federal regulator ComCare.

As reported today, for over two years the Australian Border Force Marine Unit workers and their union the CPSU, have been calling on the Department of Home Affairs and the Morrison Government to ensure safe working conditions and adequate testing for vessels, all these calls have been ignored.

As a result, more than six officers on two Cape Class vessels, and one Large Hull have contracted Covid-19 onboard, or boarded vessels while positive and asymptomatic.

The Department of Home Affairs has failed to address issues, even after its own health and safety representatives issued Provisional Improvement Notices (PINs). The CPSU has now been forced to seek an industrial resolution from the national health and safety regulator ComCare.

Officers affected have been made to isolate in the detainee transportation accommodation and, in some instances, kept at sea despite being in close quarters with other officers. The transportation quarters do not have appropriate air-conditioning, basic amenities, power points, electricity or reliable WiFi to contact family or medical professionals.

Brooke Muscat, CPSU Deputy National President said, “The Department of Home Affairs has failed to adequately prepare for Covid on Marine Unit vessels. At every turn they have rebuffed or ignored workers’ calls for common sense protections when it comes to vaccination leave, crew testing, screening, and onboard logistics.

“For two years the CPSU members in the Marine Unit have been raising these risks, but due to inaction we have been left with no alternative but to seek a resolution through the regulator, Comcare.

“The Morrison Government must pay more than lip service to Australian Border Force officers; they must ensure that all workers on vessels are safe and that all workplace health and safety obligations are met.

“Marine Unit officers do a dangerous and tough job, while being separated from their families for six months of the year. These officers need to be supported not left out to dry by a Departmental Secretary more concerned with his own ego than worker safety. It is time for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews to intervene and ensure that the Department takes worker safety seriously.”

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