Published: 21/09/2021
Category: On The Job
Published: 21/09/2021
Category: On The Job

When things go wrong, you know your union will be there beside you.

There’s no greater example of this than recent events in regional Victoria where unions banded together to raise over $50,000 for local residents who had been sideswiped by a COVD-19 outbreak.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the city of Shepparton in late August, few locals could have had any idea just how far-reaching its impact would be.

This proud, diverse and thriving city was left on its knees, as the disease struck with such speed that over one-third of the community suddenly found itself in lockdown in an attempt to curtail the spread of the virus.

Overnight, mundane tasks such as ordering delivery from your local supermarket became onerous because there weren’t enough essential workers available to deliver it to you.

Shepparton had gone from lockdown to ghost town.

And that’s when local workers and their unions stepped up to do what they’re best at – looking after people in their time of need.

The Goulburn Valley Trades and Labour Council (TLC) moved swiftly to ensure those most vulnerable in the community were not forgotten.

Mark Tait is the Secretary of the Goulburn Valley TLC. He told On the Job that the people of Shepparton and surrounds found themselves in uncharted waters, and local unions knew they had to act fast.

“We got thrown into a unique situation with a complete lockdown that started off in the schools. There were five schools shut and all parents and children were told they had to be quarantined for 14 days,” explained Tait.

“It started to spread through Shepparton and suddenly we had nearly 30,000 people in lockdown. There were a lot of shops and supermarkets that couldn’t open because they didn’t have any staff.

“People were caught very short. There was a shortage of food, shortage of sanitary products, the whole lot.”

Australian unions raised money for local organisations such as Food Share to help get food parcels to the community

Mark Tait said it was at that time unions knew they had to act.

 “People in the community rallied round, and we put wheels in motion. We contacted the main unions who had a lot of members around the area and they supported us very well,” Tait said.

“The idea was to support a group called The Lighthouse Project and a number of other groups like Food Share who work in the area to deliver services to residents.

“And we started raising money through our communities to ensure people at home could get food parcels and the like. Over those two weeks we got great support from the construction unions – The CFMEU, the plumbers, the ETU, the AMWU – as well as the Victorian Trades Hall Council and other regional TLC’s as well.

“Then the support came in from the UWU and the nurses and others as well who had members in lockdown.”

“We raised over $50,000 in two weeks, so we could provide that support and help with the essentials that people needed.”

The Goulburn Vally TLC Secretary said the way the COVID-19 pandemic struck Shepparton was startling and should serve as a lesson for similar communities as the pandemic grinds on.

“This was a huge eye-opener for everyone. The speed with which it hit was incredible. It was almost overnight that we had so many people locked away in their houses for 14 days.”

“The impact was felt through the retail industry, factories, all workplaces. People were simply unable to get to work. Socially, it was a shock just how quick this thing hit.”

Mark Tait said that local unions understood their role was to provide the resources that established service providers needed to do their work.

“Unions are good at getting organised

“It just seemed to come together within four or five days, everyone just kicked into a mode and it still hasn’t stopped at the moment. We’re still working with community groups. We still have a lot of children, in school kids all at home.”

“Shepparton did a great job of getting on top of this early, even though it was a struggle. There is still a need to monitor things, especially with mental health issues and domestic issues and people really need some help financially.”

Whatever happens though, the people of Shepparton know that Australian unions will have their back.

Support when you need it

We’ve got your back – how unions rallied for the City of Shepparton

We’ve got your back – how unions rallied for the City of Shepparton