ARA and SDA welcome Prime Minister’s initiative on wage support for retail sector

The Australian Retailers Association and the SDA welcome the news that the Prime Minister is actively preparing wage support, including for the tens of thousands of retail employees who have or are at risk of being stood down as the government steps up shutdowns to address the COVID-19 emergency.

As Mr Morrison says, everything that can be done should be done to “keep people connected with their companies, employers, shops.”

SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer and ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman are pleased that the government is listening to employer and employee representatives, notably the joint approach from the ARA and the SDA, for the Federal government to urgently establish an Australian Retail Industry Rescue Package so the industry has the support it needs to survive for the next six months and beyond.

The Package should include the following urgent measures:

  • A wage subsidy for retail workers, to protect their income and their jobs;
  • Underwriting a line of credit for retailers (subject to criteria to be determined),
  • A government guarantee of rent payments from retailers to landlords, or the federal government identifying rent reduction measures in conjunction with landlords, with all consequent rent savings to be used by retailers to help pay employees wages.

We also urge the government to establish an Australian Retail Industry Rescue Package Taskforce with the SDA, the ARA, government, and other relevant stakeholders to help implement the Australian Retail Industry Rescue Package and act as a clearing house for current issues facing the retail sector.

The ARA and the SDA understand the complexity of implementing wage support in an effective and equitable fashion, but stress the importance of speed, given the pace with which retail outlets are shutting their doors, because social distancing has reduced their customer numbers, their cashflow and ability to pay worker entitlements, rent and suppliers.

Retail is Australia’s largest private employer with 1.3 million people employed.

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