A business in Melbourne’s south-east has been shut down by the Department of Health and Human Services due to a coronavirus outbreak after the owners tried to force staff to stay at work.
Earlier in the week about 35 staff from Spotless laundry in Dandenong, owned by Ensign Services, refused to come to work after two staff members tested positive to coronavirus.
It led Ensign Services to launch a case with the Fair Work Commission to compel staff to return to work.
After the first case was diagnosed on Saturday, staff working in a small section of the laundry with the infected person were considered close contacts by Ensign Services and told to self-isolate.
All other staff were to return to work.
The second case was diagnosed on Tuesday, leading some staff to stay away from the laundry on Wednesday fearing not enough had been done to contain the outbreak.
The Fair Work case was dropped by Ensign Services yesterday before the laundry was shut down by the DHHS following an inspection.
Any worker who spent more than 30 minutes at the site since July 6 is considered a close contact and must be tested for COVID-19 and remain in quarantine for 14 days.
The United Workers Union (UWU) said it was confirmed on Friday a third staff member had tested positive to the virus.
UWU executive director Godfrey Moase said if it was not for staff staying away from work earlier in the week “this outbreak could have been much worse”.
“Spotless Dandenong workers are low-wage migrant workers who have acted together and swiftly. They acted in the interests of the entire community and should be congratulated for their service,” Mr Moase said.
The union wants all staff, including the contractors who were onsite yesterday, to be paid pandemic leave.
A spokesperson for Spotless said in a statement yesterday the company had been “working closely with the DHHS since Saturday when it provided notification that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19”.
“All employees will be advised to isolate, seek immediate testing and be cleared prior to returning to work,” the spokesperson said.
Spotless and the DHHS have been approached for comment.