It takes a team to beat Covid-19

The Public Service Association says border control and managed isolation workers are under significant pressure, working in potentially dangerous conditions under heavy public scrutiny.

Front line public servants working in and around New Zealand’s airports and ports have spent six months facing the risk of potential infection, protected only by their rigorous commitment to safety procedures, hygiene and PPE use.

The PSA encourages New Zealanders to show appreciation for the border, MIQ and public health staff battling to beat Covid-19, and for all commentators to avoid sensationalism and focus on verifiable facts.

Anyone who wants to leave a message of support for border and MIQ workers can do so online. At the union’s Facebook page, a frame can be added to the visitor’s profile picture that declares solidarity with these workers.

"New Zealanders enjoyed 102 days without Covid-19 in our community. We became used to feeling safe, but this was only possible thanks to the hard work of the public servants who built our nation’s first quarantine service from the ground up," says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.

"Many of these workers are tired from months either on the front line or grappling with extremely difficult responsibilities. It’s more than fair for the media and the public to ask questions about how our pandemic response could improve, but we urge New Zealanders to have empathy for the men and women doing their best to keep us safe."

The PSA represents employees from agencies such as the Customs Service, Aviation Security Service, the Ministry of Primary Industries, MBIE, DHBs and the Ministry of Health, many of whom have worked continuously on the Covid-19 response since before lockdown began.

PSA delegates consistently push to ensure all workplace health and safety procedures are followed correctly, and have actively supported the drive to comprehensively test all border and managed isolation staff.

The union believes recent events highlight the need to deepen cooperation and coordination between government agencies involved in the pandemic response, with consistent protocols and working conditions for both permanent staff and contractors.

"These are workplaces where significant risk goes hand in hand with significant responsibility, and nobody understands that more than front line workers for whom potential infection is part of life. There can be no barriers that dissuade people from getting tested," says Mr Barclay.

"Employers must reassure staff they will be looked after, and it is particularly urgent that lower paid and casual workers are confident they will not suffer financial hardship following a positive test. As for the rest of us, the best way we can help is by creating a culture where nobody fears social backlash or scapegoating if they become infected."