New jobless during COVID-19 pandemic

The Esplanade Hotel owner Chris Fleming and Astrid Jausel face uncertainty as government restrictions change rapidly during COVID-19 pandemic.
The Esplanade Hotel owner Chris Fleming and Astrid Jausel face uncertainty as government restrictions change rapidly during COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of people in the region are jobless after the Australian Government implemented strict restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

From midday on Monday pubs, clubs, entertainment venues, churches and gyms across the nation were forced to close their doors leaving many people unemployed and facing months of uncertainty.

In times which have not been seen since the Great Depression, the government temporarily increased Centrelink payments for some recipients who will be eligible for an extra $550 a fortnight in addition to a regular payment.

Last week, restrictions had been put in place for non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people outside or more than 100 people inside, and rules for entering aged care homes.

The restrictions included that all non-essential indoor gatherings of less than 100 people must have no more than one person per four square metres.

With restrictions and advice being changed daily The Esplanade Hotel owner Chris Fleming said it had been challenging to keep up with all the rules to ensure they were compliant.

Last week, they were removing tables from their restaurant area to comply with the restricted rules, this week they had to lay off 35 staff members after being forced to shut their bar area.

Like many other hospitality businesses around the globe, the hotel's restaurant is now takeaway while they look at implementing a delivery service as well.

"It is awful, we feel terrible because we had to let go of so many staff, I get quite emotional when they come into ask for their separation certificate," she said.

"They worked so hard throughout the summer and did everything we asked, from working longer shifts to dealing with customers who were not always the nicest, now they are out of work.

"We will have jobs for them for them when we pop out the other end.

"At the moment we have skeleton staff working in housekeeping and in the bottle shop and are taking things day-by-day, we just want to be able to pay their wages.

"Everyone has to hang in there, we are all in the same boat and we have to be patient. Still support local businesses if you can."

Gannaways Charters and Tour owner Ray Gannaway said they were also facing months of uncertainty, with their industry taking a 98 per cent hit with next to no bookings in the coming months.

"Our industry has stopped," he said.

"I am worried about our workforce, we are nothing without them and I do not know where we go from here. We will be very much dependent on government support which we have never had before.

"The employment factor is key and I do not think low to zero interest loans are the answer, when we go back into full production those costs would need to be met."

The Good Egg owner Debby Hallyburton has been able to keep her chef and apprentice chef employed for the time being.

"It has been really quiet, we will stay open with just our core staff, I will work more hours and get a couple of people in when I need them," she said.

"All our other staff are now unemployed, but they would be able to earn more from the coronavirus Centrelink payment than I could offer them in shifts."

Spice Odyssey owner Sathish Kumar has spent the last few weeks preparing for harsher restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Kumar has been liaising with fellow chefs in other parts of world who were already facing lock downs, and started selling frozen meals ahead of further restrictions being imposed by the government.

Unless the government implement a full lock down and Mr Kumar is forced to close, he hopes to keep his business operating and staff employed through takeaways and home deliveries to people if needed.

"We had to take that option because it is a hard time for us, restaurants are very quiet, it is not only me it is everybody," he said.

"We are prepared because we have chef friends all over the world in the UK, US and the Middle East who are already closed.

"We needed to face this, we are stocked up on all the spices and meats so we are prepared.

"It is a tough time you know, it is a tough time for our customers and it is a tough time for businesses, we needed to sustain.

Mr Kumar said they already had people who lived in areas such as Wilyabrup and Yallingup buying frozen meals in bulk.

"Frozen meals are perfect for ready-to-use and can be kept in the freezer for three months."