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NSW lockdown effect: Study finds dramatic decline in shifts rostered

While millions of people and businesses continue to be affected by COVID-19 led restrictions, some are more affected than others, as many shift workers and casual workers are struggling to make ends meet, according to data shared by a shift work management company. 

Deputy, an Australian company that provides a shift work management solution, found that the ongoing shutdowns are expected to affect a quarter-million workers. 

It presented insights on the recent reduction in shifts rostered on its platform throughout NSW’s hotel, retail, and service industries, with the extended lockdowns posing a major obstacle for businesses and casual employees.

The data showed:

  • A decrease of 67% of shifts being scheduled in the hospitality industry 
  • A decrease of 49% of shifts being scheduled in the services industry 
  • A decrease of 56% of shifts being scheduled in the retail industry 

In August 2019, more than 2.6 million casual workers were employed in Australia, accounting for 24.4 per cent of all employees, according to the government’s COVID-19 implications on casual workers 2019 report. 

In August 2019, Tasmania had the highest casual employee share of total employees (28.3%), while the Northern Territory had the lowest casual employee share (21.2%). 

The report also said that a high share of all casual workers in Australia works in retail and accommodation, and food services.

Major setback for casual workers and retailers

As per the Hro2 Australian Job Index Report released in July, demand for casual workers declined in the month of June.

“While the pace of growth in full time employment grew, demand for part time workers moved from stagnation to contraction,” the report said.  

The report also found that part time job opportunities fell 1.4% in June, the second successive decline. 

“Again, one suspects that this is because employers are finding it extraordinarily difficult to find the right staff.

“When they do find that talent the natural inclination will be to utilise those skills to the full extent,” it added.

Both Manufacturing and Retail experienced contraction in June – 2.9% and 2.5% respectively.

As per the report: “Manufacturing has been plateauing for several months, basically returning to its pre-pandemic level while Retail has stabilised following two months of remarkable expansion. 

“Again, lockdown fears at the end of June may have muted hiring intentions in the sector.” 

Meanwhile, National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb said that further lockdowns would require additional support to safeguard jobs.

“Each week Victoria goes into lockdown, retailers across the state lose a combined $1 billion in sales,” Ms Lamb said.

“Victorian small businesses have been hit harder than any other following five lockdowns in 16 months. 

“Retailers across the state who have been forced to close or severely limit their business operations are going to need support, or jobs will be lost.

“Not only do they forgo revenue for the days they’re unable to trade, but reopening is not like flicking on a light switch – rosters need to be organised, stock needs to be ordered, and protocols need to be implemented,” Ms Lamb added.

“Add to the fact that Melbourne is one of Australia’s biggest economic centres, and it is clear the pain from further lockdowns can easily spread across the broader economy.”

Ms Lamb said that South Australian retailers stood to lose $250 million after it was announced it too would enter a seven-day lockdown.

“Under the South Australian lockdown, only essential businesses are permitted to remain open. 

“The NRA’s early forecast is that this will see South Australian retailers lose a combined $250 million over the seven days.

“Even a short, sharp and successful lockdown can have a giant impact on businesses forced to close.” 

Extended lockdowns

The lockdown in Victoria has been extended for another seven days as health officials try to limit the COVID-19’s Delta strain. 

The lockdown was expected to end at midnight on July 20, but Premier Daniel Andrews said that it would be extended until July 27.

Mr Andrews also said that permits to enter Victoria from a red zone would be suspended for two weeks, and any Victorian who had not returned would be required to apply for an exemption.  

“The only people that will get a permit to travel from a red zone into Victoria are those who have authorised workers and those who apply for and get a compassionate exemption to the new rules,” he said.

Lockdowns have been imposed on nearly half of Australia’s 25 million people in order to combat an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant, which has already claimed millions of lives globally. 

Earlier, Gladys Berejiklian, the Premier of New South Wales, announced stricter lockdown restrictions on non-essential retail within Greater Sydney until July 30, including residents in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, and Liverpool local government areas, as well as the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, and Wollongong.

Commonwealth Government’s response

The Commonwealth Government made certain changes to how economic assistance will be delivered to individuals and businesses in regions subject to a Commonwealth hotspot declaration and State or Territory lockdown restrictions.

Emergency payments for persons who have lost up to 20 hours of work have been increased from $325 to $375, and for those who have lost more than 20 hours of work have risen from $500 to $600.

“There will be a 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement between the Commonwealth and the NSW Government for a new and expanded small to medium business support package, implemented and administered by NSW,” the statement read.

The government also announced the following support payments for small businesses:

  • From week four of the lockdown, the Commonwealth will fund 50 per cent of the cost of a new small and medium business support payment to be implemented and administered by Service NSW.
  • Eligible entities will receive 40 per cent of their NSW payroll payments, at a minimum of $1500 and a maximum of $10,000 per week.
  • Entities will be eligible if their turnover is 30 per cent lower than an equivalent two week period in 2019.
  • The new small to medium business support payment will be available to non-employing and employing entities in NSW, including not-for-profit, with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million.
  • To receive the payment, entities will be required to maintain their full time, part-time and long term casual staffing levels as of July 13 2021.
  • For non-employing businesses, such as sole traders, the payment will be set at $1,000 per week.

Glimmer of hope

Amid all the chaos, delivery company, Sherpa, said it’s in need of drivers, in Sydney and Perth, due to a huge increase in online deliveries as customers shift online and traditional retail is closed.

According to Sherpa CEO Duncan Brett, delivery volume increases are up 80% on June levels, and this is from a base where they were already up 65 per cent in 2020.

“We are reaching out to people who have been put out of their jobs. Construction workers, tradies, office workers, anyone who is out of a job and wants income to pay their rent or mortgage and bills,” Mr Brett said.   

“As long as they have a car, a smartphone, are over 18, have visa work rights and an ABN, we can have them on the road in less than 24 hours.

“We are so busy keeping up with demand, and the potential is there for everyone to earn enough money to pay their bills and relieve COVID-19 financial stress.”

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