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Worker shortage: Supermarkets warning amid new COVID-19 rules

·3-min read
A supermarket worker using a checkout while wearing a mask.
There are concerns that new COVID-19 restrictions and truck driver strikes may lead to worker shortages (Source: Getty)

Aussies may be facing the same issues as the UK as supermarkets have flagged concerns over potential worker shortages.

This, along with truck driver strikes, may be a receipt for disaster as locked down Aussies rely more on food and goods delivery.

New COVID-19 vaccination regulations have been putting pressure on companies with a young workforce, as those aged below 18 are having trouble qualifying for the vaccine.

New NSW government regulations specify that someone who lives within an LGA on concern may not leave their area unless they are vaccinated, have a specific work permit or their employer has daily rapid antigen testing.

This will put pressure on fast food retailers as well as supermarkets who have a younger workforce.

10,000 Woolies employees affected

Woolworths has more than 10,000 employees affected by the orders across 100 outlets but only three pop-up testing sites.

A Woolworths spokesperson told the Australian Financial Review the chain was “in discussions with the NSW government about the significant logistical challenges these orders would pose to our continued operations across Sydney”.

“We’re supportive of rapid antigen testing and have already introduced it in our Sydney distribution centre,” the spokesperson said.

“But as things stand, we’re unable to source enough rapid antigen test kits or nurses to administer them across 100 different sites up to 24 hours a day.”

Sydney, Australia 2021-01-07: Exterior view of Woolworths Miranda supermarket during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown
Woolworths has flagged concerns over a worker shortage due to new COVID-19 restrictions (Source: Getty)

Delivery driver strikes

This comes as thousands of transport workers prepare to walk off the job at midnight tonight as they call on the Federal Government to urgently regulate transport supply chains.

A Senate report recommended the Federal Government “establishes an independent body” to “set universal, binding standards” in road transport.

If adopted this regulation would eliminate gig economy models such as Deliveroo and Uber - potentially impacting your ability to get certain food deliveries.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine welcomed the recommendations saying it will help reform one of Australia’s most deadly industries.

“This comprehensive report is emphatic in its portrayal of the transport industry and the regulatory requirements to fix deep-rooted, deadly pressures in transport supply chains,” he said.

“The Prime Minister only needs to look at the thousands of transport workers forced to pursue strikes over an assault on good, safe jobs across Australia’s major operators to see that implementing the recommendations of the Senate report is a national priority.”

Toll workers are appealing for their jobs to be protected as they prepare to strike for 24 hours today.

“Federal Government inaction has empowered the likes of Amazon and Uber to introduce extreme exploitation into our economy which is bringing the transport industry to its knees,” Kaine said.

“While Scott Morrison has been asleep at the wheel, transport workers have had no choice but to take the fight into their own hands by bravely taking industrial action to fight for their futures.”

Global supply chain issues

And supply chain issues are not just happening in Australia.

The United Kingdom has seen major retailers’ face the lowest stock levels since 1983 due to worker shortages and COVID-19-induced transport disruptions.

McDonalds has run out of milkshakes and delivery services like Amazon and DHL have been offering sign up bonuses to attract more workers.

Meanwhile, South Korean delivery drivers are striking after 21 drivers lost their lives due to being overworked during the pandemic.

Some delivery drivers in South Korea are clocking in 90 hour weeks, the ABC reports.

South Korean delivery drivers were already overworked before the pandemic but with COVID-19 Delta variant keeping more people at home, a surge in online shopping has put pressure on the already struggling industry.

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