Retail industry calls for JobKeeper, Frydenberg resists

Retailers and retail workers have jointly written to the Prime Minster calling for the reinstitution of the JobKeeper wage subsidy and rent relief measures brought in during the nation’s first lockdown.

The ARA, NRA and SDA have made the plea on behalf of members who have said the current lockdown in Sydney is putting such pressure on their cash flow that they risk folding with the current support mechanisms.

“While well intentioned, the current arrangements are grossly inadequate to deal with what is now a protracted lockdown in the nations biggest economy,” said SDA’s NSW secretary Bernie Smith.

“JobKeeper meant millions of workers were able to keep the wolf from the door as well as keeping them connected with their employers. Because those workers receiving any other Government benefit are excluded from Covid Disaster Payments, those who can least afford it will suffer the most.”

According to comments by Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday, however, the Government is not in any rush to bring back these measures – stating the current support is a superior system.

“When we introduced JobKeeper, the whole country was effectively into a lockdown… This is a different circumstance,” Frydenberg said.

“It does work differently, but the payments that we have today: the income support payments, the business payments, they are significant, substantive, comprehensive, and will provide welcome relief to people.”

ARA boss Paul Zahra said the measures fall short of what is required for business survival, and the recent lockdowns throughout NSW, Victoria and South Australia have, so far, cost retailers $8 billion.

NRA chief executive Dominique Lamb agreed, noting that retail is one of Australia’s most important sectors – employing around ten per cent of the country’s workforce – and that under the current situation job losses will be inevitable.

“Even when the current lockdowns end, there will still be pain for many businesses,” Lamb said.,

“It’s not like flicking a switch and the day after restrictions eased the business landscape just reverts to normal. Customer confidence will be jolted and many retailers will continue to keep people employed.”

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