Staff walk out of Qld voting call centre
Workers at a crowded call centre for Queensland's council elections have been told they're "exempt" from social distancing rules designed to limit the spread of coronavirus.
One worker has told AAP that she and others walked out of the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) call centre on Thursday, fearing they could become infected.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said conditions were cramped, with staff working in pairs inside small cubicles to process phone votes.
"The cubicles are no more than 1.5 metres wide," the woman said.
She said there were about 120 people crammed into the centre at any given time.
She and other temporary workers who showed up for training ended up walking away on Thursday when it became clear no effort was being made to enforce social distancing.
But an ECQ spokesperson said the workers are "exempt" from social distancing precautions, and other steps were being taken instead.
"The volume of requests for telephone voting is unprecedented, at more than 10 times any previous election," the spokesman said.
"Our staff work in pairs to ensure one is speaking to the elector and the other is auditing the process.
"While workplaces are exempt from social distancing measures, we regularly clean all surfaces and provide hand sanitiser and breaks to wash hands."
The ECQ has had to hire dozens of temporary call centre staff to deal with extraordinary demand for phone voting amid the coronavirus crisis.
More than 30,000 voters have applied to cast their ballot over the phone, keen to avoid polling booths and potential infection.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has faced a barrage of questions about why Saturday's elections have not been called off amid the coronavirus crisis.
But she and the state's chief health officer say it is safe for people to head out to vote, as long as they practice social distancing and good hygiene.
The Australian Medical Association of Queensland has expressed serious concerns, saying people should wear masks at polling booths, and should not be fined if they don't turn up to vote.
More than half of eligible Queenslanders have have either voted or have applied to vote away from the ballot box.
Saturday's elections cover all 77 local government areas in Queensland.
There will also be two by-elections for the state government - the seats of Bundamba and Currumbin.
Originally published as Staff walk out of Qld voting call centre