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The Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) trade has been excluded from essential service status under the Victorian Government’s Work Permit Scheme which was introduced yesterday as part of stage four restrictions.

Concerned about the impact this “glaring omission” will have on public safety in Victoria, Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) CEO, Glenn Evans, said lives could be put at risk if RAC equipment is not maintained.

“It is critical for RAC to be listed as an essential business,” he said.

Seeking clarification Evans said ARC immediately contacted the office of the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews.

Discussions are ongoing as there are fears technicians and RAC businesses could be hit with on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 (for individuals) and up to $9,913 (for businesses) if Work Permit Scheme requirements are breached.

This includes employers and employees who do not carry their worker permit when travelling to and from work.

“When you consider surgical operations can’t happen without refrigeration facilities, or that there’d be no transport of meat and other perishables without refrigeration – and the importance of heating for those that are self-isolating at home, as well as essential vehicle repairs - it is vital that refrigeration and air conditioning services can operate,” Evans said.

“Refrigeration and air conditioning play an essential role in modern society. When equipment fails, licensed refrigeration and air conditioning technicians must be allowed to repair or replace it as quickly as possible.

“Quite simply, lives are at risk if RAC equipment is not maintained so that it is operational.”

Australian Industry (Ai) Group CEO, Innes Willox, described the restrictions as draconian.

He said these measures in Victoria will devastate the livelihoods of millions in the state.

"Closing or restricting large swathes of manufacturing and construction as well as their supply chains brings the hammer down on sectors that have been responsible for relatively little transmission, which have followed strict COVID-safe plans and are vital to the community and the country's economic well-being,” Willox said.

"Many Victorian businesses operate and supply goods and services across borders and the restrictions on well over 20 percent of Australia's economic activity will have massive flow-on implications across the nation.

“Many businesses will struggle to reopen after the minimum six weeks of restrictions and closures. The future of their employees is now uncertain.”

 

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