Hundreds of critical service jobs have been plunged into doubt after border businesses were blindsided by the NSW government's decision to tighten permit conditions further late on Monday.
Employers were left stunned when contacted via email by Service NSW about a revised definition for workers in the manufacturing, construction, agriculture, energy and mining sectors with only those performing "frontline operational roles delivering essential operational activities" eligible for new permits.
Management, administration, compliance, production planning, procurement and HR roles will be the most affected in the move which has intensified anger towards NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her government.
Management meetings are out and routine maintenance tasks should be delayed, according to Service NSW.
Those found to have obtained a permit when not eligible could be jailed for two years or fined $22,000.
The changes coincided with the same day Victoria recorded a record 532 cases with member for Albury Justin Clancy also caught off-guard by the changes.
Also on Monday, Ms Berejiklian said: "We've gone over and above to make sure those border communities are being taken care of as much as possible".
But Michelle Clarke from Albury's Macfab Engineering said business concerns were being ignored by the state government.
"The most frustrating thing is no one is talking to anybody in our area," she said.
"There have been no meetings, no consultation, then bang, close the border with no thought to its ramifications. It is creating huge anxiety among staff.
"No one knows where these new permits came from and we're being told to tell our workers to keep using the permits they've got until the new ones come into effect.
"We're hoping commonsense prevails in the meantime."
Australian Industry Group regional manager Tim Farrah said the latest changes were "symptomatic" of the way the border closures had been managed from the outset and again they didn't address the issue of solving the overall aim of preventing COVID-19 getting into NSW.
"It is illogical and again caught business on the hop," he said.
"They were still adjusting to the more recent changes."
Mr Farrah said the revised definition of who was eligible for the permits would be a major handbrake on businesses.
"Manufacturing and construction have a very structured organisational command and every cog within that structure is critical to them being able to do what they do," he said.
"Non-frontline staff, safety managers and the like, often have to be onsite for those businesses to function."
The business body wants the entire border closure policy re-visited and re-drawn in consultation with the state government, border-based MPs, councils, health services and police.
"We need to go back to the drawing board about what we want to achieve," he said.
"Business will play its part and we know we are going to be inconvenienced because it's what we've got to do to combat COVID-19, but it can still be done in a logical, structured way."
Mr Clancy said he understood the frustration of the "goal posts constantly changing" with permits.
"I wasn't aware of the email going out on Monday afternoon and I contacted the minister (Victor Dominello) yesterday evening and told him that wasn't good enough," he said.
"We've had a meeting this morning where I've put it to the minister and Service NSW that there needs to be better communication."
Mr Clancy said the Premier's office had alerted him to some instances of critical service permit holders from the border showing up at Sydney airport.
Meanwhile, Wodonga Council is lobbying to have Logic industrial hub included in a revised blue zone.
"We are aware that the Logic industrial precinct has not been included in the border community zone and the impacts this has for the many workers that attend that site each and every day," council chief executive Mark Dixon said.
"The issue has been raised with the cross-border commissioners and our understanding is it is on a priority list and we are hopeful of a positive outcome very soon."