Things weren't quite going that well at Bayside

Bayside started out looking like it knew what it was doing. People were working from home, a triage team was established in their WHS area, they published regular newsletters keeping everyone in the loop but someone, and no one is really owning up to who that was, decided and published on 29 June a return to work message to all staff headed “Congratulations! We made it to the other side...” Very premature at the time, and even more premature as we watch the second wave role on.

This was their response to the 1 July easing of restrictions in NSW but out at Bayside they got very excited about “how proud we are of our response to COVID-19!”, so without further ado, or even another week or two or three to be sure we were out the other side, they decided that all working from home arrangements and approvals would expire the following day. You’d have to reply under new rules.

They prepared a new approach to working from home that would see anyone with a leaseback car paying more for it because they believed that more days at home really meant more private use. It was demonstrable that we had members working from home who use their cars for work purposes on inspections over that period of time but clearly someone thought if you’re working from home, you’re driving your car around the place for private purposes, just generally skiving off.

The document itself, with proposed changes for RDOs was drafted as if it were hostile to people continuing to work remotely. No one understands why.

But it was the preparation of the workplace for the return of staff where the proverbial hit the fan. The triage team, led by the looked-up-to Ben Thompson, Manager Business Improvement and Organisational Development, was absolutely convinced that the 1.5 metre requirements didn’t apply if you were seated back-to-back. So they set about measuring all the workspaces to provide appropriate social distancing.

But, many of the workstations didn’t, so sneeze screens were erected and we then entered into what became an interminable argument about the 1.5 metres with the GM coming back and saying she had never said it didn’t apply if people were sitting back-to-back. Of course she hadn’t, but her people had and were continuing to do so..

That created untold anxiety amongst staff busy adhering to social distancing requirements while they were working remotely and in their normal lives, finding that they are being required to return to work, with very short notice, with social distancing requirements not being respected.

Our members were the most vigilant about this, and that resulted in an email from Ben Thompson, the Manager BI&OD on 29 June under the heading Floor Plans for seating availability for return to work safe and in response to concerns members had raised about desks facing in opposite directions, said this:

This will be fine for use. Where desks are facing each other we are installing sneeze shields but there is no requirement when desks are facing opposite directions.

In fact it is actually safer than desks side-by-side as breathing/sneezes are in opposite directions.”

Uh oh, a real FFS moment and a quotable quote for posterity.

It was all well and good for the GM to be saying it wasn’t her fault, that she’d never said that, but it was being said and was being said by the people she had made responsible for work, health and safety in the return to work.

We even bet the GM that she couldn’t provide us with evidence from any reputable source, like NSW Health, that this was right and Meredith, you couldn’t do that, so lunch really is on you. Isn’t it.

But more importantly, when eventually the GM confirmed to us that the following week the Council would publish a clarification , ”just to clarify, no matter which direction your desk or the desks around you face, you must always observe the 1.5 m rule. Keeping that space between you and others is an important part of staying safe”, and they did, there really needed to be an acknowledgement of the conflicting advice that had both horrified and confused indoor staff.

And, as we try to teach our kids, “if you make a mistake apologise for it, and it’s over” we said “decisive action is required to clear the air, please”.

We put that to the GM, but still there has been no acknowledgement of the dismay and anxiety that the confusing and inaccurate information created.

We’ve acknowledged it now but it does need to be acknowledged by those in charge at Bayside. Over to you again.

Finally, and despite publishing that the WH&S team is there to help and even saying “don’t be afraid to contact the team. No issue is too big or too small!”, when our members did so because there were still problems with spacing of desks, the Manager BI&OD responded “rather than sit in a desk being concerned, I’m not sure why the employees themselves or the leadership group are not moving the employee to another desk? If we were at full capacity I would understand the lack of action, but there are free desks every day.”

The best advice the Manager has given, don’t just sit there being concerned, fix it yourself.

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