Workers locked down in St Kilda hotel harassed ‘day and night’ by sex workers

Dozens of workers in mandatory quarantine at a St Kilda hotel say their 14-day lockdown has been a nightmare and that sex workers have tried to breach their “strictly no visitors” policy “at various times of day and night”.
News.com.au can reveal maritime workers from South Australia, NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory were ordered into rooms at the hotel in the bayside suburb just outside the Melbourne CBD before being allowed to join a merchant ship travelling up and down Australia’s eastern seaboard.
Under the Victorian Government’s COVID-19 rules, “maritime crew must go into mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days … if transiting interstate”.
The hotel quarantine program was organised by the company at a cost of roughly $3000 per person and administered by hotel staff. It was separate to quarantine arrangements organised and run by the Victorian Government.
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An email sent by the ship’s captain to the company’s human resources department, seen by news.com.au, reveals the quarantined workers complained so many times about conditions at the hotel that their bosses were forced to change accommodation providers.
Part of the email read: “In addition to below message and some of the complaints by other crew … that there are issues (such) as suspected drugs and prostitution. Some crew have been offered, (women) knocking on doors at various times of day or night.”
A whistleblower who spent 14 days at the hotel in August before joining the ship told news.com.au the multiple encounters with women offering services for money put the safety of workers at risk.
“Some girls were coming and knocking at the door saying they will do anything for $50 or $100,” said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“It did happen a couple of times and they saw I was not interested at all. Having to deal with that on top of the everything else, it was just too much.
“When you are in isolation in a small room, that is hard enough. The doorknocking makes it much harder.”
He said the women who approached his door got straight to the point.
“They’d say ‘hi’ and we would ask them what they want because we were not expecting anybody knocking.
“They’d just say, ‘I’ll do anything for $50’. Being adults, we knew straight away there’s something wrong. But if there’s a young guy with no strings attached, he doesn’t have to worry about being healthy, if the opportunity arises, he might take it. He’s bored out of his brain, a girl comes and knocks on the door.
“But if he catches (COVID-19), he could be asymptomatic and then carry it onto the ship. If that happens, it’ll stop our workplace completely. We’ll have to deep clean, trading will stop, we’ll be sitting ducks at sea.”
The man said ship workers who were coming from interstate locations where coronavirus cases are much lower than they are in Victoria were “worried about catching it”.
“Workers are coming from QLD, SA and the NT, their numbers are basically nil,” he said.
“When they come to a hot spot like Melbourne they are already stressed and worried they are going to catch it. Always wondering whether they will catch the virus. We are doing our bit, but hotels are still out there allowing this to happen.”
News.com.au approached the hotel for comment but did not receive a response.
News.com.au understands there are still a number of workers finishing their 14-day quarantining period at the St Kilda location because the decision to change hotels was made in the middle of their stay.
From next month, the workers will be moved to a different hotel before starting their six-week stint aboard the merchant ship.
The Victorian Government’s hotel quarantine debacle, which saw infections spike after security guards mingled with hotel guests, is the subject of a judicial inquiry.
Premier Daniel Andrews has declared he will “take full responsibility” for what went wrong when private contractors were hired to oversee the safety of overseas arrivals at two CBD hotels.
The Premier will give evidence to the inquiry if he is called upon to do so.
rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith