Merivale’s Justin Hemmes is among the heavyweights in the hospitality industry calling for the reintroduction of JobKeeper.
Hemmes says the industry is “on its knees” and experts agree that uncertainty is leading to a huge talent exodus.
“Without a JobKeeper 3.0 the industry cannot survive continued lockdowns,” Hemmes told the Daily Telegraph this week.
“The hospitality industry is one of the hardest hit in the pandemic. We are the first ones to close and often the last to open. It has been three weeks of closures already.”
Hemmes said the scheme kept staff connected to businesses and supported their mental health.
“It is a tried and tested mechanism,” he said. “Probably the best in the world. We need to see it returned in order to support staff and business.”
Wes Lambert, CEO of the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association, said that many of his members were reporting that “some of their long term employees are leaving industry due to the sawtooth and yo-yo effects of lockdowns and restrictions and the uncertainty and unpredictability of their wages.”
He told ABC News: “We are about 100,000 people short of all available positions being filled. It is becoming impossible to refill senior positions which take, in some cases, decades to skill-up and train for and gain the relevant experience.”
Australian Hotels Association NSW Director of Liquor and Policing John Green told the Sydney Morning Herald that pubs had been closed for 117 days over the course of the pandemic, “and counting”.
“We currently have no certainty about reopening,” he said. “NSW hotels directly employ 75,000 people and many of these staff members have now been stood down on three separate occasions. There are only so many times staff members can be stood down before they look for work in other more certain industries and that’s what we are already seeing.”
Government says JobKeeper “not necessary”
The NSW and Victorian governments have announced COVID-19 relief packages for those impacted by the latest lockdowns, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying last week that the new measures mean JobKeeper is “not necessary”.
But the Night Time Industries Association Chair Justine Baker (above) told 2GB’s Deborah Knight that the hospitality sector desperately needs a JobKeeper style employee assistance subsidy. She fears many businesses will not survive the current lockdown without it.
“It’s debilitating – the uncertainty is really crippling for our sector,” she said. “We were really asking for a JobKeeper style subsidy, that really retained and engaged our employees over the last lockdown.
“If we just have a cashflow boost, it is absolutely welcome, but for some of our bigger businesses, it’s just not going to be enough. We have groups who employ 1000 people, their cash burn is $1.2 million a week. It’s unsustainable and these businesses cannot survive lockdown. We don’t know how long this is going to go, obviously, but if we follow a Melbourne example it could be seven or eight weeks.”
NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns agreed, telling the Daily Telegraph that “if the health advice says a deeper lockdown, then the financial support needs to include JobKeeper. This lockdown is deeper than last year and yet the financial support is a lot less.”
Pictured main: Merivale venue Mr Wong.