News Unions, businesses unite in call for paid pandemic leave

Unions, businesses unite in call for paid pandemic leave

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The pandemic, and support resulting from it, has led to an $85 billion deficit. Photo: AAP
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Unions and businesses have made a united plea for a federally funded paid pandemic leave scheme, calling it an “essential public health measure”.

The ACTU and the Business Council of Australia have written to Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter, urging the Morrison government to move speedily to introduce a scheme.

“Unions and business have shown an extraordinary level of cooperation through the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter says.

“Today we are coming together to support a paid pandemic leave scheme that helps all workers to comply with the applicable state and territory public health directives.”

The extraordinary united appeal comes as the federal government weighs up extra economic support to guide Victoria through its supercharged lockdown.

On Monday morning, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declared the state was at war with the virus.

Mr Frydenberg said JobKeeper in its current form would continue until the end of September, which is later than lockdown is slated to last.

“We are at war. Every Victorian is on the front line. Everyone has a role to play,” he told the ABC.

“We can’t afford any holes in our defences.”

The Treasurer noted some major employers had already introduced pandemic leave, while the state government also provides support for people who need to isolate.

Victoria is in a state of disaster with tough new restrictions as coronavirus infections and deaths continue to surge. It reported a further 429 COVID cases on Monday.

Mr Frydenberg said the impact on Australia’s economy would be greater than the $3.3 billion Treasury estimated the initial six-week lockdown would cost.

“Victoria is a quarter of the national economy,” he said.

“This is a real kick in the guts to Victorian businesses, which will have an impact on employment.”

Under Victoria’s strict stage-four virus measures, only one person from households is allowed to shop once a day.

Exercise is limited to an hour a day and, like shopping, must be within five kilometres of households.

Police, who have been armed with extraordinary state of disaster powers, will enforce a curfew between 8pm and 5am during the six-week lockdown.

Meanwhile, the NSW government is strongly recommending people wear masks in high-risk situations.

Public-facing workers, worshippers, people living near community clusters and those in enclosed spaces, such as on public transport or in grocery shops, should wear face masks.

-with AAP