JobKeeper ends, industry awaits fall-out

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As the Covid stimulus JobKeeper came to an end on Sunday night, print businesses around the country were assessing their staffing needs, and the viability of their ongoing sustainability.

 JobKeeper always temporary: Josh Frydenberg

Hailed by the treasurer, and its architect, Josh Frydenberg, as a great success, JobKeeper has been used by printers large and small across the country for a year, paying $750 a week to staff wages, then $650 from January, whether they worked or not. It has cost the country $90bn.

At its peak, a million businesses around the country were claiming JobKeeper. On its end, Frydenberg said, "JobKeeper was always only a temporary programme."

Together with three other planks of the government’s Covid support package – no evictions from commercial premises if rent not paid, the ability to trade while insolvent on debts of less than $1m, and protection from creditor winding up orders for six months – JobKeeper was responsible for the survival of a number of printers whose work dried up, especially in the early days of the virus.

As a result of government Covid support, only a handful of print businesses hit the wall, far fewer than would be the case in a normal year, after all if there was a ring around wages, rent and creditors it was be fairly easy to stay alive.

Now, however, the stimulus package has ended. The government’s hope is that as it stops, the upturn in the economy will be large enough to pick up most of the slack. In manufacturing, which includes print, there has been a 76 per cent drop in the number of employees on JobKeeper.

Some 3.5 million people were on JobKeeper, but before it ended 2.5 million had already moved off it as the economy recovered. Of the one million still on it when it ended, Treasury estimates that 10 to 15 per cent of those will be told by their employers that their services will no longer be needed.

'Empowering the packaging sector': Andrew Macaulay, CEO PIAA.
'JobKeeper a lifesaver: Andrew Macaulay, CEO PIAA.

Andrew Macaulay, CEO at PVCA said, "JobKeeper was a lifesaver for many in the print industry, particularly in those in states that had irrational and erratic Covid responses with unpredictable shutdowns. Some of the industry is picking up, but there are areas of concern, particularly in printers who service viulnerable sectors, like tourism, and those printers are going to feel a pinch as JobKeeper ends. PVCA has made submissions to government about this, and we hope to see some support at state and federal level."

Charles Watson, general manager IR, Governance and Policy at Real Media Collective said, “The JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme was a crucial government response that lessened the negative impacts of Covid-19 across the Australian economy. Although it wasn’t a golden bullet, it formed an integral part of the governments stimulus package and provided wage subsidisation to over 3.6 million workers during the April to September period last year. It has fulfilled its purpose by keeping workers employed and ensuring businesses did not lose skilled employees during the worst periods of 2020. Like many sectors, our industry benefitted from that scheme.

Charles Watson, TRMC
Ongoing challenges remain: Charles Watson, TRMC

“With business and consumer indicators moving up over the last few months, we believe this is a positive sign for the industry generally. We have seen a good number of industry participants move off JobKeeper during the second half of last year, which was encouraging. Nonetheless, ongoing challenges will remain for our industry and those of our industry’s clients. There are those in the industry that have had to remain on the scheme until its recent conclusion. Those businesses will likely face ongoing challenges, need to think proactively about their next steps, and implement personalised solutions for their particular business circumstances."

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