Auckland businesses want the Government to mandate a “no jab, no job” regime, similar to some Australian states, saying they are being held hostage by a minority of vaccine holdouts.
Meanwhile, Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck says Wellington is “asleep at the wheel” on Auckland’s woes and is renewing calls for more targeted support for lockdown-ravaged businesses.
Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said an overwhelming 90 per cent of small and medium enterprises that responded to the group’s latest survey endorsed mandatory workplace vaccination.
“We have received legal advice that businesses could demand their employees are all vaccinated based on the likelihood and consequences of Covid exposure and spread to colleagues, customers and the community,” he said.
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“But, unlike Air New Zealand’s no jab no international flight rule or no jab no entry for non-citizens, business can’t just demand mandatory vaccination without testing it legally and that would be costly and drawn out.”
Air New Zealand has now said it will require all adult international passengers to be fully vaccinated from February 1 next year.
“Business needs clarity and Government should help business help themselves by endorsing and enabling mandatory vaccination to provide safe and healthy workplace environments,” Barnett said.
“If an employer determines that there is a high health and safety risk of an employee having the virus, being exposed to it, or spreading it to others, it is reasonable to require that employees who perform the work are vaccinated. No employer wants to be responsible for a community outbreak that could cause serious harm or be fatal,” Mr Barnett said.
The call comes as hundreds of thousands of Victorians in Australia have been told to get vaccinated in two weeks or risk losing their job, as part of a new mandate that was announced last week.
Local business groups are growing increasingly frustrated with the Government’s Covid response for business.
Heart of the City’s Viv Beck and Ariana Paul, who heads up supplier diversity company Amotai manukura, today issued a joint statement calling for urgent action from the Government to avert major fallout across the city.
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“Lack of understanding, urgency and action on the needs of Auckland businesses has come to a crunch and we cannot politely work around it any longer, offering advice and support that gets ignored,” Beck said.
Amotai represents the interests of Māori & Pasifika businesses.
Paul said Tāmaki Makaurau needs resuscitation right now.
“Our Māori and Pasifika business owners, sole traders and entrepreneurs are facing into the extreme sharp cutting edge of this lockdown. For many, resources are depleted, government support is too little and too late, borrowing from whānau and friends is no longer an option – the only other option is to look at is closing the doors.”
Beck and Paul say they are both seeing the impact of the pandemic firsthand – and see the need for substantial action to support business, including targeted support and access to low-cost and easy-to-repay money to keep businesses afloat.
“There is no urgency to review suggestions that could help people,” Beck said.
“Three weeks ago, we asked Treasury to review a proposal for a low-cost and easy-to-repay ‘overdraft’ facility that was proposed by Dr Richard Meade in April 2020.There is no action so far, despite many people saying over and over that these needs are urgent.
Paul said business owners, whānau and employees are the casualties of the prolonged lockdown.
“Just look at the demand for food parcels and the unemployment rates of Māori and Pasifika. We know that after every economic shock, Māori and Pasifika are disproportionately impacted. The only difference between this lockdown and the first lockdown, is this lockdown feels 10 times worse.”
Auckland hospitality emergency meeting
More than 300 members of the Auckland hospitality sector attended an emergency online meeting today, amid extreme hardship under the level 3 and 4 lockdowns.
Among their requests they want the Government to provide the wage subsidy for staff of hospitality businesses at level 2, and make resurgence payments available weekly or bi-weekly, tied to revenue levels.
“We have survived by taking on unprecedented levels of debt from borrowing, and by not paying bills,” said Hospitality New Zealand’s Auckland branch president Jamie Freeman.
“We will have no opportunity to pay back loans and debts until level 1, and that is likely to take up to a year to repay.
“A move to level 2 that limits capacity, and involves staffing and sociability restrictions necessarily limits our revenue to under break-even. Our losses will be worse because level 2 will mean the end of the wage subsidy for us, and for our peers across New Zealand who rely on Auckland travellers.”
He says the absence of a plan to return to normal by Christmas, and continued risk of further lockdowns, means many businesses cannot be certain about their financial future. Some are only weeks away from closure, he added.
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