22 July 2020

We now know that “about 80 per cent” of Victoria’s second-wave covid outbreak has been “driven by transmission in workplaces” — with big clusters in meat processing, aged care, and security, three industries characterised by low wages, lax safety, and high rates of outsourcing, casualisation, and sham contracting. The breakdown in procedures at quarantine hotels was inevitable, given that decades of outsourcing and privatisation led the public service to rely on the notoriously crooked private security industry: “In late March, without a tender process, the Victorian Government contracted private security operators to guard hotel quarantine guests. … 7.30 has obtained a series of WhatsApp messages which reveal how some security guards were recruited to work in these Melbourne quarantine hotels. … When someone in the group asked about the rate of pay, the organiser responded, ’25 dollars, ABN’ — signifying the guards weren’t expected to be directly employed by the company, but act as independent contractors and supply an Australian Business Number.” A guard told the ABC: “We didn’t get any training when I got there. They just didn’t tell us what training we had to do, we just had to put a mask on, put gloves on, and that’s it. They had no training of how to use PPE (personal protective equipment), how to sanitise hands, nothing. No training at all.”