Letter from lockdown: ‘I love my hospitality job but I wish I wasn’t a casual in the middle of a pandemic’ | Sarah Edwards

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I love my job, my workmates and the people I work for at a sports bar on the Mornington Peninsula.

We have a steady flow of tourists all year round and our regulars are extremely loyal to “their local”. For me, work is my life – my workmates and customers are like an extended family and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

The only thing I would change is being casually employed – like the majority of hospitality workers in Victoria – in the middle of a pandemic.

When we’re not in lockdown, I work almost full-time hours over five to six shifts each week.

Unfortunately, I don’t receive the same entitlements of permanent or full-time employees so I live week-to-week with very little (if any) savings. This has made living through these lockdowns almost impossible.

Work has stopped but the bills have not. Rent and utilities for even the most modest home are very expensive and the cost of basic living takes up the majority of my weekly wages.

It took four long weeks after the first lockdown in March last year startedfor the jobkeeper program to be announced. This was crucially important as by that stage my rent and utilities were all overdue and adding up quickly.

For the first time in my life I had to reach out to local community groups for food relief. These groups did an unbelievable job!

Without this support things can so quickly snowball, which then impacts your health, relationships and mental state. The fear of homelessness and developing depression is much worse than any economic struggles.

As we moved into the second week of this lockdown, the panic once again settled in.The uncertainty of when we will be returning to work is a very unnerving feeling.

The federal government has announced a temporary Covid disaster payment, which will be on a week-to-week basis. It sounds promising but the restrictions on eligibility seem a little unfair. Everyone who is not working due to government lockdown should be entitled to receive the subsidy.

Having savings or shares shouldn’t have anything to do with eligibility, and I think policing this will be very difficult. I’ll also be disappointed if payments are not backdated to the start of this lockdown – it seems almost pointless to bring in this assistance so late in lockdown to only be able to claim one $500 payment. The amount on offer – $325 to $500 – will hardly cover rent or mortgage, let alone help with utilities and food.

I really think jobkeeper should have been reinstated as the chance of another lockdown is high. We need some reassurance and stability to maintain our everyday lives.

My 15-year-old English staffy, Indy, has been not herself in the last month or so and the thought of not being able to afford a trip to the vet if required is also worrying me daily. Fingers crossed we are back to work sooner rather than later and the government starts rolling out vaccinations to all.

Regardless of everything, we soldier on. After almost six months (or more than 170 days) of lockdown, all we can do is get used to this new type of “normal”. The past 18 months have changed the way we live and work and I think made us stronger and more resilient in general. Positive changes can be made as a result of these experiences and can educate us for the future.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Letter from lockdown: ‘I love my hospitality job but I wish I wasn’t a casual in the middle of a pandemic’ | Sarah Edwards

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