Print is essential but some operators may need to temporarily close amid COVID lockdown extension: TRMC

The current coronavirus outbreak in Victoria has led to an extension of the ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown in Melbourne for another seven days.

The news is a crushing blow for Melbournians and industry association, The Real Media Collective, says it is prompting a number of small to medium sized print businesses to consider temporarily closing operations, even though they are deemed essential and are able to operate.

The lockdown was due to end at midnight tonight, but has now been extended for Melbourne for another seven days.

“JobKeeper and Fair Work provisions were lifted at the end of March so the rules we were operating under last year and at the beginning of this year cannot be applied as readily so we have to go back to the award,” The Real Media Collective CEO Kellie Northwood told Sprinter.

“There are a couple of areas that we are providing information to our members in that regard but it is still by agreement and we trying to assist our members in how they can work with their teams.”

To help printers work out the best course of action at this time, The Real Media Collective has produced a ‘Stand Down Summary’ which employers can use to guide them.

“It is recognised that any lockdown has a ripple effect across the entire economy and there are many member companies in Victoria who are unable to remain open during this period. For those organisations we provide the attached Stand Down document for your consideration,” Northwood said.

She added The Real Media Collective is now preparing a submission for the Fair Work Commission in a bid to have provisions put in place for when lockdowns occur so there is a clearer plan for how employers and employees can navigate the situation.

“These lockdowns are going to come and go for another six to 12 months so we need to have some provisions for this when print manufacturers need to reduce work operations when the work is just not there,” Northwood said.

“We want to be open but industry is just asking for a lever that can be flexed for when these situations come up. There are problems when there is just not enough work to run a full operation when we are in a lockdown.”

Industry guidance

Northwood said any advice that will help businesses get through the current period will be available for all to access on The Real Media Collective’s website. This includes details on running a COVID Safe operation.

“Despite the fact we can remain open, which is a great outcome for those with work being pushed through their facilities, any lockdown has a ripple effect on the economy,” Northwood said.

“Several of our Victorian members have communicated they are looking to shut down operations for a period of time. We have been issuing supporting notices in regards to ‘Direction to take Leave’ as well as ‘Stand Down’ advice to many members and will publish with all this week.”

COVID lockdown ‘hammer blow’ to retail industry: NRA

The National Retailers Association says the extension of the COVID lockdown to 14 days across Melbourne will result in a $2 billion “hammer blow” to Victoria’s retail industry.

National Retailers Association CEO Dominique Lamb said while the sector accepted the state government had no choice, the extended lockdown will provide crippling for many businesses.

“Across the entire 14-day lockdown, the NRA calculates that Victorian retail will lose a combined total of two billion dollars in sales.

“We’re also concerned that even once the current restrictions are relaxed, there will continue to be a lag in economic activity due to a dent in consumer confidence. Foot traffic across major shopping precincts worsens with each lockdown, the Melbourne CBD has tracked consistently at 40 per cent below pre-pandemic levels,” Lamb said.

The Victorian Government announced a $250 million small business support fund last weekend to help cover costs from the lockdown. This would allow payments of $2500 a week to be made to businesses forced to close. It does not offer much help for printers though that due to having an ‘essential service’ approval are not forced to close.

“Retailers understand that public money doesn’t grow on trees, but without further government assistance real carnage could be inflicted on the Victorian economy,” Lamb said.

“Each day Melbourne remains in lockdown businesses are either having revenue channels dramatically slashed or shut off all together, but still have to pay wages. If no help arrives, many affected retailers will have no choice but to shed jobs.”

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