Message from the CEO
Since my last update 48 hours ago, we are continuing to see a series of announcements by Federal & State Government’s to support businesses and their employees meet the economic challenges created by the COVID-19 (C-19) Pandemic.
As at today, Victoria’s confirmed cases of C-19 rose to 968 after another 51 people were diagnosed with the virus overnight, with 32 people in hospital, including 6 in intensive care. The national death toll from the virus has reached 20, with 4 being in Victoria. We now have stage 3 restrictions in place and under these measures there are 4 reasons you can leave your house, ie: for food and supplies, for exercise, for medical care, and for work and education – if necessary.
So, what further announcements have been made, what does this mean for my business and what is CCF continuing to in regards to its’ advocacy work?
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT “JOBKEEPER” PAYMENT
On Monday, 30 March the Prime Minister and the Treasurer announced a new” JobKeeper” payment to support the retention of employment in businesses. This includes employment in organisations, and non-for-profit organisations, such as CCF.
The $130 billion “JobKeeper” payment will help keep Australians in jobs as tackle the significant economic impact from the C-19 virus. The payment will be open to eligible businesses that receive a significant financial hit caused by C-19. The payment will provide the equivalent of around 70% of the national median wage.
The “JobKeeper” payment will be paid to eligible employers and the wage subsidy will be $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible employee. Generally, businesses will be eligible if they have experienced a reduction in turnover of 30% or more. Businesses with an annual turnover of more than $1 billion will be eligible if they experience a reduction in turnover of 50% or more.
Full-time and part-time employees are eligible, as are casual employees who have been employed by the business for more than 12 months. Regardless of the level of wage paid, the subsidy is $1,500 per fortnight and employers will be obliged to pay the employees at least this amount (which is a pre-tax amount).
The “JobKeeper” payment is available for six (6) month period from 30 March. Payments are expected to be made to employers in the first week in May to reimburse employers for wage payments made before then. The following link to the Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science website for risk management extensively covers the “Job Keeper” support package for employers and sole businesses.
STATE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES $1.2bn HEALTH FUND BOOST
In addition to the $500 million Business Support Fund, announced by the Premier on Monday, today the State Government announced a $1.3bn “funding boost”, that will be used to expand the number of intensive care beds from 500 to 4,500 within the State.
The fund will be used for training of nurses, anaesthetists and other healthcare workers to be able to work in an intensive care setting and includes equipment like ventilators, IV infusion pumps, patient monitors, dialysis machines and PPE equipment. The Government is stating that is “worst-case” scenario planning.
BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION SAFETY GUIDELINES UPDATED
On 31 March, the Building & Construction Working Group, including CCF, supported the release of the attached safety guidelines by the VBIDP (Victorian Building Industry Disputes Panel), following consultation amongst the group emanating from the introduction of Stage 3 measures by the State Government.
Some suggestions made by the working group did not fall within the brief of this exercise, but will be picked up in other appropriate forums. There was a lot of discussion over hoists and lifts – the final words settled on reflect the advices from DHHS, WorkSafe and others. WorkSafe will also be issuing draft Guidance on this subject, which will be subject to further stakeholder consultation.
This is an evolving document as there are still matters that will arise and need attention. These will continue to be worked through and best practice shared. There will be a Version 3 at some point so this document will not stand still. It’s clear the group are keeping safety first and hopefully compliance with these Guidelines will assure a better outcome for all on construction sites during these challenging times.
Our HSEQ Officer, Trevor Derham, is available to assist you in the interpretation and adoption of these guidelines. You can contact Trevor on email at firstname.lastname@example.org
CCF ADVOCACY UPDATE
At a National level, CCF released a media statement on 31 March, urging the Federal Government to ensure critical civil construction occupations are officially listed as “essential skills” on the Australian Governments ‘National Skills Needs List’ to help in the fight against COVID-19.
In commending the Federal Government for its announcement of the $10 million National Careers Institute grants program to help job seekers gain access to high-quality information about the pathways available through the VET system, CCF National CEO, Chris Melham, stated an overhaul of the National Skills Needs List is urgently required to enable civil construction occupations to be eligible for federal government funding under the Incentives for Australian Apprenticeships program, which is due to commence on 1 July 2020. A copy of the Media Release and CCF’s recent submission on the review of the Australian Apprenticeships National Skills Needs List is available on the CCF Victoria website via the link below.
QBE TRADE CREDIT INSURANCE UPDATE & BANK/FINANCE COMPANY SUPPORT ADVICE
You may have seen, or heard recent reports over the weekend that QBE has halted trade credit protection for high-risk policies under a certain limit and made changes at higher levels in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This has taken many affected businesses, including many CCF members, by surprise.
I can confirm that Brokers received an email over the weekend advising the cuts to cover, without any prior flagging of changes that will have a significant impact on clients. QBE states that the current situation is unprecedented, fast-moving and the action reflects the unique circumstances created by C-19. See link about below about QBE recently published in the Australian Financial Review.
With many of QBE’s customers curtailing their business or even shutting down, this provides a significantly altered risk profile on industry sectors and specific businesses. Insurance Underwriters that were offering Trade Credit Insurance have diminished and CCF members with QBE should seek alternatives should QBE pull their existing cover. CCF is working closely with business partners Gallagher and Finlease on a potential product offering for CCF members that may fill this void. We will keep you abreast of developments in this regard.
CCF supporter and partner, Alex Charilaou – Finlease, has been in regular contact with me in offering support to CCF members during this financially challenging period. This is his latest update on “7 quick facts” to assist you understanding of what is now available from March 12th 2020 via the Economic Stimulus Package. Both of the 2 initiatives shown regarding instant asset write offs and depreciation are available to all businesses with an annual turnover of less than $500mil. Alex has also provided us with a useful tool for members who want to seek relief from lenders on their equipment.
CCF Members can click on the link direct to the lender where they can apply for up to 6 mth payment deferrals. You can contact Alex and James Bretnall at Finlease to assist CCF members in navigating deferral payments on their loans, whether or not Finlease wrote the initial business. Such is the relationship we enjoy with Alex and the team at Finlease and you can contact either Alex on mobile (0407) 460-144 / email email@example.com or James on mobile (0407) 362-400 / email firstname.lastname@example.org
While most CCF staff are now working remotely with reduced temporary work hours to minimise the spread of the C-19 virus and save on costs, please do not hesitate to contact me personally, your MSO, or one of the BSC team members on 1300 DIAL CCF, if we can be of further assistance.