This changes everything – industry thrilled with $1500

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Printers across the land are expressing their relief on the back of the government's $1500 employee support package, brought in to help business get through the coronavirus crisis.

Stimulus package: Scott Morrison
Stimulus package: Scott Morrison

With some sectors of the trade doing it really tough, and many others seeing a decline in work, the new $1500 a fortnight support package for wages has taken a huge weight off the shoulders of the many print bosses who were having to think about laying off staff, and facing an uncertain future with their businesses.

Under the terms of the new package any business that has seen a drop in sales of at least 30 per cent when compared with the same month last year will be eligible to apply for government assistance for their staff, with that assistance to last up to six months.

The support will come whether staff are still working full time, or been moved to part time, or have had to be stood down, or switch between all three. So far more than 300,000 Australian businesses have applied for the package.

Nigel Quirk, director of Printgraphics Printgreen in Melbourne summed up the mood when he said, “This changes everything, changes the balance. Prior to the announcemment many printers I know were thinking a shutdown would be the way to go. Now the mood has swung, we know we can stay open and our staff will be looked after. I think that will also give the market confidence.”

Ian Smith, general manager of Advance Press in Perth, said, “It’s a terrific initiative, but it doesn’t make up for the drop in orders.”

John Scott, general manager of Scott Print also in Perth said, “For us, it’s certainly very helpful, but it doesn’t go all the way to solving the issue of the general reduction in orders. I’m sure everyone will use it.”

Tom Lusch, owner of Platypus Print Packaging in Brisbane, said the company hadn’t been as hard hit as many of his fellow printers because the company’s main business is packaging.

“It’s definitely going to help us, more so the employees, which is what it’s all about, keeping the skilled employees,” he said.

Aldo Burcheri, director and owner of Courtney in Melbourne, said there are some uncertainties in the legislation, and his company was "going through the process of evaluating the programme"".

Tim Lack, managing director of Foot & Playsted in Launceston, said the initiative will certainly help. “It will be very useful for us to be able to retain staff on the other end of this crisis,” he said.

“We’re not going to know really how bad it will be till we get the end of April, and the next couple of months will tell the story.”

Peter Musarra, director of Carbon8 in Sydney, said the programme is a move in the right direction, but there is uncertainty in the details.

“It will assist, of course. We will use and implement any benefit that will help our staff.” he said. “But the problem is that there is a lot of grey in the finer details.”

Musarra said the uncertainty in the programme is around exactly how the payments should be implemented and what the terms and conditions are.

“Our staff needs to have certainty around these payments, and we are seeking clear advice around how it should be implemented,” he said. “But this will certainly assist in continuing our staff’s employment, we just need to ensure it is implemented correctly.”

To be eligible for the JobKeeper scheme, businesses with a turnover of less than $1bn must have seen their turnover reduced by 30 per cent compared with a comparable term a year ago. Eligible employees must have started with the business before 1 March. Eligible employees can be full-time, part-time, or long-term casual (meaning they have been with the company for 12 months or more).

For more details, head to the Treasury’s JobKeeper webpage.

Allied with the $1500 employee pay the government has also directed banks to enable landlords and tenants to come to an agreement if financial distress due to the coronavirus means there is little or no money for rent. It is putting no-eviction rules in place for distressed tenants.

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