- 1 Danny McGinlay, comedian, Northcote
- 2 Chad Parkhill, owner of Trouble in Dreams cocktail bar, Footscray
- 3 Mary Gurry, owner and manager of Centrestage Costumes, Brunswick
- 4 Guy Willoughby, owner of Anthropology Specialty Coffee, Pascoe Vale
- 5 Josh Wellington/Bathsheba, drag queen, Pride of Footscray
- 6 Virginia Lovett, executive director and co-chief executive of the Melbourne Theatre Company
Join Hafta-Ichi to Research the article “‘We’re the ones shouldering it all’: how Victorian workers are coping with a fourth Covid lockdown | Victoria”
Victoria has entered its fourth Covid lockdown – but it is the first without jobkeeper and boosted jobseeker payments. Businesses and workers are worried. Here they tell Guardian Australia who they think is to blame and what assistance they require.
Danny McGinlay, comedian, Northcote
I was supposed to perform at the Basement comedy club in Melbourne, and then do some emceeing at the footy, hosting a room at the Bulldogs versus Demons game. I’ve lost over a grand.
When you’re freelance, you’ve always got savings, but it’s a bit infuriating when it’s not your fault, and if the vaccines had been rolled out as they should, we would have dodged this. The timing is very bad because the weekend is how you pay for the rest of the week. The Monday, Tuesday gigs don’t pay very well, so the Thursday, Friday, Saturday gigs are where you pay for everything.
Any business owner would feel the same. ScoMo says ‘if you have a go, you get a go’, but we’re the ones shouldering it all. Anyone who has got a full-time job or can work from home, it’s not often I envy them, but this is one of those occasions.
I’ve got two small kids, so am going from a night out hosting the footy to deciding between Space Jam and Kung Fu Panda. We did a big shop and I’m planning elaborate long-form cooking. I’ll still watch the footy but if the Bulldogs lose, I’m going to blame the lack of a crowd.
It’s the Melbourne tradition to get up early and find out what time the presser is on and what the [Covid case] numbers are. It was our sport when there was no sport. There were only four cases on Friday and they were all close contacts, so I’m confident we’ll come back.
Chad Parkhill, owner of Trouble in Dreams cocktail bar, Footscray
We were supposed to open the bar the weekend before the first lockdown in Melbourne. In the last two weeks of the build, the tradies stopped turning up to site because they were worried they might catch the virus. We did not end up opening before the lockdown and had to pivot to delivery to get through, selling bottled cocktails. We were able to trade for two weeks in between lockdowns one and two before we were locked down again, and ran a little pop-up store and the delivery service to get by.
We have decided not to do delivery again now, and we didn’t again in the earlier snap lockdown in February. It’s an incredible amount of work to completely pack down the bar and reconstitute it as a production facility and the rewards aren’t really worth it. We were able to keep our heads above water doing delivery last year because I was on jobkeeper and we had some rent relief from our landlord, so the delivery allowed us to cover rent and covered the cost of the product and the packaging.
I think it would be impossible for us to survive another extended lockdown and look after our staff just on deliveries.
All of our staff are on part-time contracts so we will cover them for the week, and hope it doesn’t go longer. I am trying not to worry at this stage, mostly because fundamentally worrying about it is not especially useful. There’s not much I can do about the virus itself, its transmission in the community and the government response to it.
In the hospitality industry in particular there are a couple of really high-profile figures that have made a lot of noise about the impact of lockdowns on their business, and I do understand where they’re coming from. But in terms of a public health response, if that’s what’s required to save lives, then I’m all for it. And any time there’s an increased transmission of virus in the community we notice an immediate drop in revenue – people are less likely to come in, they cancel their bookings. I’d much rather have a one-week lockdown that means no revenue for one week if in the weeks after that you return to some sort of normalcy in the takings, rather than being slowly bled out by the virus.
Mary Gurry, owner and manager of Centrestage Costumes, Brunswick
In about the last month I’ve seen a nice upward line of people getting more comfortable about having parties. And there were going to be a lot of events this weekend. Our booked racks were exploding.
The lockdown has slammed it up. Finished. We’ve actually started a new folder of deferred bookings. People have rung us and said: “We can’t do it this weekend, but we’re going to have that party sometime so hold onto our details.” So that is comforting.
Yesterday, someone who booked costumes for a photo booth at her party said “I’m going to have this damn party sometime”.
My son and myself work in our business. We’re both home. We might brew some beers this [Friday] afternoon, just for something to do. Given there are only four cases today, I’m optimistic it will just be seven days of lockdown. All of the agencies know how crippling it is for business. Everything just stops dead.
I’m lucky we’re in a family business, we have had for 36 years and we intend to continue. We’ll get through somehow, but there’s a lot of businesses out there with part-time staff and temporary staff who will have no money for the week.
It just makes me angry that quarantine hasn’t been sorted. People are angry at the federal government. Their two jobs were quarantine and vaccination, and they stuffed both and I feel that’s mainly the reason we’re here.
Guy Willoughby, owner of Anthropology Specialty Coffee, Pascoe Vale
We’re pretty used to this drill now, we’ve done it many times, so I feel somewhat prepared, but there’s always a bit of anxiety around the unknowns, like the unknown length it may drag on for, and how customers will respond and whether they’ll keep coming out and supporting us.
But the biggest anxiety comes with ordering and planning. Generally, throughout the past year, we’ve tried to keep our ordering really minimal anyway, because if anything happens, we don’t want too much stock. It could all just go to waste at the drop of a hat.
We’re lucky in some ways, we have a takeaway window, so we can operate through that, and we’ve built up a pretty good customer base that knows we’re going to be open.
We’ve been mentally preparing for a situation like this, it’s been very much a part of our thinking over the past year.
I’m a supporter of these short lockdowns, we’ve seen they are effective, but the sooner we get on top of this, the better. It should also encourage people to get out and get the vaccine, which is the right thing to do.
From my perspective, there hasn’t been enough information out there, it hasn’t been well advertised, and maybe hasn’t been clear that people who do qualify should be getting it, to prevent what we’re experiencing now.
A stronger vaccine rollout that more people could qualify for would be better.
Something I would have liked to have seen earlier was a focus on hospitality staff, people working in supermarkets, and a lot of those lower-income jobs, which have been out there supplying the community. They haven’t been eligible for vaccination up to this point.
Employees shouldn’t have to be the ones who bear the burden of the risks a business takes. Financial support that is more targeted, for businesses and low-income workers, would help right now, because casual employees are usually the ones hit the hardest. They’re the ones who lose out the most.
Josh Wellington/Bathsheba, drag queen, Pride of Footscray
For this Saturday, we had a giant show scheduled with Drag Race Down Under contestant Art Simone for Pride of Footscray. So the ramifications for me personally is a loss of income of about $1,000.
A lot of artists aren’t as fortunate as me and they don’t have a full-time job as well. For something like that to happen with no notice and no government support means that there’s issues like “How am I going to pay rent this week?” We can’t always assume that people are just leaving money aside. With the elimination of jobkeeper, are you supposed to tread water? Where are you supposed to get that money?
But then there’s the aspect where doing shows and performing is a lot of fun and it brings a lot of joy to people and to the performers, and when that’s taken away that can be immensely disappointing. I’m very disappointed that we didn’t get to do a show with Art, it would have been a career milestone for me in terms of where my drag has come, and because she’s on TV at the moment, it would have been great for Pride of Footscray. Their mindset is “We can pretty much pick up the pieces and move on” but the short-term effect is it was almost sold out, and that money isn’t going to randomly drop when things pick up next Friday.
It does annoy me when people make jokes about lockdown like “Oh I need a week off”. I didn’t realise going out for dinner or getting drunk was that exhausting for people. I hope people think about that next time they go into a shop, or have a tequila shot at the bar – that there are actually people at the other end of that service as well.
Everyone is affected by lockdown in different ways but some are more adversely affected than others.
Virginia Lovett, executive director and co-chief executive of the Melbourne Theatre Company
Last year was an extraordinarily tough year, particularly for Victorian companies compared to interstate companies. We worked so hard to find a way to come back. The February shutdown raised red flags to put contingencies in place for if this happened again, but having this happen now, in season, with shows up and running – it’s disappointing, and there’s anxiety obviously, but there’s resilience as well.
I’m just blown away by the company and the staff – even when we started to see numbers climb, we just went back into that mode: “OK, what do we have to do?” Not just in a pragmatic sense regarding show cancellations, but in terms of looking after cast and creatives and the staff. Last year, we didn’t have a playbook, but this time around we do. It was all hauntingly familiar. All of us know what we have to do. What we’re more cognisant of now is the impact on staff and cast and creatives – of the anxiety of going into something that we hope is only seven days, but might be longer.
Vaccinations will be the key for us to come through this. All the arts organisations and theatres in Melbourne have very robust Covid-safe plans – we’ve been operating safely since we opened in January. I think we’re an extraordinarily safe environment – but when we have lockdowns like this, the challenge is rebuilding consumer confidence afterwards. What we’re finding is that people are waiting a week out before they book tickets for shows. They’re not booking very far in advance like they once would. That’s a rollercoaster for us in terms of budgeting and forecasting.
It’s quite a difficult situation to model, financially. Cancelling nine shows at the Arts Centre is a big financial hit. We’ve got a reduced season anyway this year, and we were reduced in terms of other revenue forecasts. We hope that people would move their tickets or take credits or offer their ticket price as a donation, but if you’re in the last week of a really popular show then you have to refund. We put a little bit of money aside but it’s hard to put in a buffer because you don’t know when shocks like this are going to come in the season. That’s why we support Live Performance Australia’s call for business disruption insurance.
We’re being pragmatic and working through each day. We have production staff classified as construction so we can continue some of our work and move forward. The government has understood that for business continuity purposes we can’t completely shut down.
We’ve been speaking to the government about strategic relief and ongoing strategic relief, because particularly for Melbourne arts organisations, Covid will have a long tail. We’re still not out of the woods – even next year we’re looking at a reduced season.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘We’re the ones shouldering it all’: how Victorian workers are coping with a fourth Covid lockdown | Victoria