I think we’d all agree that 2020 has been a very different year impacted largely by COVID-19. The pandemic has affected all our members whether they work in retail, distribution centres or fast food outlets.
Sales have boomed in supermarkets, DCs volumes have surpassed Christmas trading whilst many retailers have temporarily closed their doors and regrettably, some will never reopen. The good news in Queensland is that at the time of writing there is currently one active case of Covid. We all look forward to the restrictions being further relaxed so we can return to our normal lives.
In the last five months, we have achieved many milestones for our members in these very different times. We immediately lobbied the companies to be proactive, get on the front foot and introduce safety measures in their stores, DCs and fast food outlets. It is true that some companies have taken their corporate responsibilities very seriously whilst others have dragged their feet.
Most companies have introduced the bulk of the SDAs 10 point Health and Safety Plan and at the time of writing, the Woolworths Group, Costco, Bunnings, Coles supermarkets and The Reject Shop have all recognised their hard-working employees by paying them some form of an Essential Service Payment. These payments have included a combination of one-off payments, shares, gift cards and hourly rate increases for a defined period. The feedback we have received from members is that most would have liked to have had their hard work recognised by an hourly rate increase but the harsh facts are that the aforementioned companies have made some monetary recognition to their employees whilst others have done absolutely nothing even though their sales have spiked during the last five months. It is also true that the SDA vigorously pursued the Essential Service Payment and if we didn’t, no payments would have been made to our hard-working members.
I assure members that SDA National Office is continuing to discuss the Essential Service Payment with those companies who have not financially rewarded their employees during these stressful times. Some of these companies have had booming sales yet they have failed to recognise their employees through some form of monetary benefit. It is not surprising that so many of these companies’ employees are totally disgusted by their individual employer’s attitude.
The SDA and the ACTU also pressed the federal government to initiate some form of payment to those workers whose companies had closed their doors or sales had plummeted during the pandemic. The SDA supported the JobKeeper payments but wanted them extended to cover all casual employees and visa workers.
It is our firm belief that there will be some parts of the economy which will need futhter extensions of this scheme.
We are pleased with the further federal assistance recently announced to extend the support to protect jobs, via the JobKeeper scheme.
The JobKeeper payments have been extended by six months to March 2021 at reduced rates with a two tiered mechanism. We continue to press for all workers and employees to be covered by the scheme to secure as many jobs as we recover from the COVID-19 crisis.