The construction industry is up in arms because they have finally been shut down. Welcome to lockdown boys and be thankful that you do not work in sectors that have been affected far more seriously than you.
The arts, events, entertainment and festivals sectors have been the first to be shut down and the last to reopen. Since 13th March 2020 these sectors have been shut down for longer in NSW and Vic than they have been allowed to be open.
This article in the SMH should be a wakeup call to how powerful industries think they have a right to work during lockdown when everyone else is doing their bit.
Construction in NSW is worth more than $60 billion and is one of the biggest employers, generating more than 350,000 jobs.
“One of the biggest employers”, but not as big as the arts, events, entertainment and festivals sector and the sectors that benefit from them including venues, hospitality, tourism, accommodation, travel, etc.
“We’re concerned for many of our smaller subcontractors who we partner with – they have limited cashflows and in speaking with many of them they say they can just absorb two weeks with no work, beyond that we are looking at insolvencies,” Built managing director Brett Mason said.
Smaller subcontractors (and casuals) are the lifeblood of arts, events, entertainment and festivals. These subcontractors include: event managers, stage managers, stage crew, musicians, entertainers, AV technicians, loaders, drivers, catering staff, wait staff, cleaners, ushers, photographers, videographers, etc.
These subcontractors have not been “looking at insolvencies” – many of them have already gone under.
The shutdown has outraged the construction sector, which warned the move will cost the economy billions of dollars and lead to substantial job losses.
Let us share your outrage! The lockdowns have already cost the arts and events sector billions of dollars and led to substantial job losses and people leaving the industry.
Premier Daniel Andrews said in August the “pilot light levels” allowed the industry to keep ticking while ensuring COVID-safe practices.
In theatre terms this is called a “ghost light”. A single light left on the stage as a safety measure. However in theatres all over NSW and Vic these lights are now burning constantly as a reminder that the theatres are closed – not ticking.
Construction industry bosses involved in the NSW government’s daily meetings have proposed a similar plan for Sydney. Compensation for the industry has also been discussed, although the focus has been on safety plans.
Where are the daily meetings with the arts and events sector?
Where is the compensation for the arts and events sector which already has safety plans in place?
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the government was working closely with the construction industry to find the best way to get the sector back up and running but minimise the risk from COVID-19.
Has the NSW Treasurer even spoken to the arts and events sector? And incidentally there has not been one case of transmission in an arts or event venue anywhere in Australia (apart from sporting venues). A major outdoor festival was shut down at a days’ notice, even though NSW Health praised the standard of Bluesfest’s COVID plan.
Ms Berejiklian also foreshadowed that on-site COVID testing could be an option for construction sites.
“We are wanting to make sure that industry is well supported in having those extra COVID safe measures on site, including testing on site including a number of other things which can be done … the larger [sites] have a greater capacity for some of those testing arrangements,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Event venues such as showgrounds have been commandeered for mass testing and in Victoria the MCEC and the REB have been turned into mass testing and vaccination hubs. Our sector is contributing.
I would like to also point out that contact tracing via QR or barcodes has been standard practice for events such as conferences and expos for decades. Our industry had this technology proven and in place yet the state governments, instead of seeking advice from our sector, went out on their own to reinvent the wheel.
And finally the premier’s kick in the balls for the arts and events industries.
“I also want to show the community that we are working with the construction sector on safe ways to go back to business on July 31, and I want to make that very clear.”
Where is the support to get theatres and event venues “back to business on July 31”. We are the community.
Main photo JESSICA HROMAS Sydney Morning Herald