Residents of nine locked-down public housing towers in Melbourne were denied access to translators and interpreters because of an industrial dispute.
Members of Translators and Interpreters Australia claim they were unable to assist some 3000 residents, who were in coronavirus-induced home detention for five days, due to a dispute with the federal government's translating service.
They say for two months they have refused to sign contracts with the Translating and Interpreting Service, also known as TIS National, because they can be varied for up to 10 years.
"I have been working for TIS for the past 25 years, but now I have been deactivated because I did not sign their deed," TIA member Abbas Kazemi said in a statement.
TIA organiser Niki Baras described the move as a "petty attempt to gain an advantage during an industrial dispute".
"This is an appalling, bloody-minded tactic that has compounded the suffering of the hundreds of residents within the housing estates who need language support," she said.
"We have been negotiating a settlement to this dispute in good faith, but TIS are refusing to shift on crucial elements of the deed."
Eight towers joined the rest of Melbourne in stage three lockdown on Thursday, but residents of the tower at 33 Alfred Street in North Melbourne will remain in self-isolation for nine days after 53 people tested positive to COVID-19.
A total of 158 people have COVID-19 in seven of the towers, while two had no cases.
TIS National is an interpreting service provided by the federal Department of Home Affairs.
Australian Associated Press