Kiwis should be kind to border workers who are putting their lives at risk - union

Glenn Barclay says they have been under significant pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Glenn Barclay says they have been under significant pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Getty

The Public Service Association (PSA) is calling for Kiwis to be kind to border control and managed isolation workers who are working on the frontline of New Zealand's COVID-19 response.

The union's national secretary Glenn Barclay said workers in airports and ports have had to face the risk of contracting coronavirus and are also under intense public scrutiny.

"Many of these workers are tired from months either on the front line or grappling with extremely difficult responsibilities," Barclay said.

"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."

He said Kiwis enjoyed 102 days with no cases of COVID-19 in the community which was thanks to those who have been working at the border.

The PSA is urging Kiwis to show appreciation for border, MIQ and public health staff. People can leave messages on an online board or add a frame to Facebook profile pictures, Barclay said.

They are also advocating for the need to "deepen cooperation and coordination between government agencies involved in the pandemic response" to make conditions and rules more consistent throughout.

"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," he said.

"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."