More workers at and around airports should be separated into "work bubbles" to cut the risk of spreading Covid-19, a union representing those on the frontline says.
The Public Service Association (PSA) has members working for border agencies including Customs, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Aviation Security Service.
Aviation Security Service has now split staff into two bubbles at or around Auckland Airport - one group working at the domestic terminal building, and the other at the international terminal.
Staff are assigned to duties in one or the other bubble only, and the goal is for each bubble to be self-sufficient in terms of managing training and sick and other leave.
The PSA wants that approach to be used for more workers at the border, thereby reducing the risk of transmission should someone test positive for Covid-19, and reassuring workers "who are under intense pressure following recent events".
"Our members do amazing work to keep New Zealand safe, but many are stressed and exhausted. Some worry they can't safely tell people they work somewhere like Auckland Airport, because they might get shunned or stigmatised," said PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk.
The union praised the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which oversees the managed isolation facilities and has signed a "worker participation agreement" with six unions representing workers at the hotels.
That has meant regular meetings involving union and safety representatives, employers and government officials.
"The government agencies our members work for have mostly supported staff well during Covid, but the problem is there's no combined health and safety forum at the airport. If each employer does their own thing, it leads to mixed messages, poor communication and inconsistent practice," said Polaczuk.
Anna Cassels-Brown, general manager operations at Auckland Airport, said each organisation with workers around the airport would have its own protocols, but there were "a large number of collaborative health and safety forums operating at Auckland Airport, as well as a range of other collaborative forums where health and safety is a key focus".
"As well as hosting quarterly meetings of key airport organisations' CEOs where health and safety is a prime focus, all organisations critical to airport operations, including Aviation Security and other government agencies, have signed a common user safety protocol, which has a governance and oversight forum that meets regularly.
"This is supported by targeted health and safety groups, focused on particular areas of the business, which a wide range of stakeholders operating at the airport are members of. For example, there are individual forums for apron safety, airspace and airfield issues, baggage handling, terminal and landside areas, construction safety and contractor safety."
There were daily stand-ups for all organisations where safety issues could be raised, Cassels-Brown said, and a range of other forums.
"There are hundreds of businesses operating on the airport precinct... while we work to ensure they can all operate in the most efficient, effective, and safest way possible, Auckland Airport is not directly responsible for the staff within those organisations."
In terms of its own employees, Cassels-Brown said any lift to level 3 or higher required operational teams to move into "work bubbles", and non-operational staff to work from home - an approach in place since March last year.
Frontline staff have regular asymptomatic testing, and hand-held self-temperature checking stations are used across the airport.
"We follow Ministry of Health guidelines and protocols in relation to PPE, testing and cleaning and in many cases, we take a more conservative approach to the official guidance to ensure our staff remain safe at work."