VIRUS: PVCA to run crisis management sessions

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Print & Visual Communication Association is running a series of crisis management sessions designed to enable printers to meet the myriad demands of the coronavirus environment.

Vitally important: Andrew Macaulay
Crisis management: Andrew Macaulay PVCA

The first session has just taken place, with the PVCA board members taking part by the Zoom app. Contact PVCA by to register for a session, which will be online also on Zoom.

Andrew Macaulay, CEO at PVCA said, “The guidance comes from the law firm that PVCA retains to assist members. It is intended to enable them to have clear understanding on important issues, from contract law, force majeure, IR, HR, leases, supplier engagement, to risk management.”

Macaulay says that for instance the session will give clarity on what happens when a printer cannot fulfill a contract due to the virus, if for example a part may not be available. He says, “Print business should not be penalised when force majeure is a factor. This session will go through all issues like this.

“It will also, for instance, look at the risks of having staff working offsite, and how printers manage that.”

PVCA has just sent out a letter to its members offering more guidance, reproduced below:

Dear XXX,

We are noticing a cluster of similar issues (some of which are significant) developing for many of our members right now.

In this regard, we think it important that we send you this email right away, to ensure that you allow for best preparation. Without wanting to sound dramatic, it is fair to say that this is going to get far more serious before it gets better.

It remains to be seen what the overall legal and financial fallout of Covid-19 (“C-19”) will be in Australia. However, what is obvious to all of us, is that the biggest business issue after safety of our workforce and families, is going to be – cashflow.

We think that the below group of issues should be immediately put on your radar as they may be either important for you to address, or be beneficial for you to implement – starting now:

Industrial, commercial and retail leases
Many of our members have investment properties – be it industrial, commercial or retail. Others are tenants of such properties. It is easy to predict that businesses are likely to experience big trading downturns, and are likely to demand, amongst other things, rent reductions or be simply unable to make rental payments to landlords. If you are a tenant and wish to appeal for lower rents and longer payment terms, or if on the flip side you are a landlord confronted by these same issues, you should carefully consider your lease, and consult with me and my commercial law team, so that we can negotiate effectively on your behalf, and draft appropriate amendments to current leases.

lease call the PVCA legal services team at about ways of mitigating loss relating to rental payments.

This environment does not allow parties to simply avoid their liabilities in a contract – tenants must not breach the terms of their lease, and likewise, landlords must stick to their contractual obligations as well, except by agreement. In the current situation, the upside is going to be in the art of the deal.

Your duty of care to employees, visitors and customers
The risk to employers relating to people’s health and the breach of a possible duty of care to prevent the spread of the virus may have ramifications into the future. So too are the employer’s risks of people working from home, which then becomes their employee’s workplace. It is a potential legal minefield waiting to happen. Be cautious and careful rather than risk a breach of duty of care. If you require clarification on this newly emerging issue, please call Rob or myself.

Stimulus payments
The federal government has introduced stimulus payments (which are really a tax refund) to businesses with payments of between $2000-$25,000, as well as support for the hiring of apprentices or trainees.

Please refer to the attached Fact Sheet, which provides a good summary.

Construction, development, and imports
Whether Industrial, Commercial or Retail/Residential – the impact will likely be significant in this area. Further, anybody involved in the importation of materials from China is hurting right now, or is about to. Many owners, builders and developers will take or threaten legal action against contractors and suppliers for not completing their works or for failing to deliver materials, in spite of C-19. These matters vary widely, and the PVCA legal services team is ready to provide immediate advice in relation to a dispute arising from such disruptions.

Things that are simply beyond your control to thwart obligations – force majeure
Force majeure provisions in contracts may relieve performance obligations for events beyond the reasonable control of contracting parties. Many contracts contain force majeure clauses with the usual intent being to excuse contracting parties from contractual obligations and liabilities while they are prevented from performance consequent upon certain events and circumstances. If this is relevant to you, please have a careful look at your contract wording, and please speak with the PVCA legal services team about what might be done.

Please do a will
We feel so strongly about this that the PVCA legal services team will do you a simple interim one for free. Just please get it done. Please call the PVCA legal services team, and they will arrange for to meet with you initially by teleconference, and then directly for signing.

The PVCA legal services team are fully tooled up for videoconferencing, so please take advantage of this.

Aged care – our parents and other older loved ones
C-19 will disproportionally affect the aged population and is a genuine threat in aged care homes. The risk to aged care facilities is unprecedented because this virus is more fatal to the elderly. Some families will no doubt want to move their loved ones into their home and out of aged care. It is important to look at the terms and conditions of the respite or permanent aged care agreement as it will outline the terms and conditions of how and when you can withdraw, as well as procedures and response to emergency events.

Worker’s comp claims for virus
Workers in NSW can claim compensation for a disease that is contracted by a worker in the course of employment, but only if the employment was the main contributing factor to the disease. This would be unusual, but there may be a high motivation in the case of death from the virus. If you have someone in the workplace who is sick in any way, or who has someone in their household who is sick, prudence will dictate sending them home – and if appropriate, right now.

Employment issues, and an ability to stand people down, is looming as one of the most significant issues at this time. You must get this right if you are planning to stand down employees. Many employers are considering asking their employees to take forced annual or unpaid leave. Some employers are simply terminating some employees. Where you stand and what you can do depends on various factors. Consider carefully but quickly what you can do.

This is complicated to say the least, it’s preferable that we give you some quick and valuable advice before you take any action in this regard. Please call the PVCA IR Hotline at any time in this regard.

We will write to you separately regarding business and property finance and insurance facilities, and what can be done if you need respite.

We are all in this together, and we want to help our clients get through this in the best possible shape. The PVCA legal services team are in a position to quickly review your lease, contract, other agreements, mortgage documents, insurance policies and any other document or area of concern you have in current circumstances. Just reach out and we’ll jump to it.

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