‘We’re all carrying this on our shoulders’: How Victorian workers are facing a fourth cowardly lockdown Victoria

VOctoria has entered its fourth coveted lockdown – but this is the first without a jobkeeper and the first to increase employee pay. Businesses and workers are worried. Here they tell Parents Australia what they feel is wrong and what help they need.

Danny McGinley, comedian, Northcote

I had to perform at the Basement Comedy Club Melbourne, And then do some icing on the cake, hosting a room in the Demons Game of Thrones. I’m lost in a grand.

When you’re free, you’ve always saved, but it’s not your fault, it’s a bit of a rage, and if the vaccines were made like them, we’d be shocked. The timing is very bad because of how to pay for the rest of your week. Monday, Tuesday gigs don’t pay very good money, so Thursday, Friday, Saturday gigs are there where you pay for everything.

Comedian Danny Magazine
By Danny Magazine. Photo: Peter Bland

Any business owner felt the same way. ScoMo says, ‘If you have to go, you go’, but we’re all on this shoulder. Anyone who has got a full-time job or can work from home, I don’t often envy, but this is one of those opportunities.

I’ve got two little kids, so I’ve been going to a broken hosting overnight to decide between a space jam and a kung fu panda. We went to a big store and I plan to cook on a wide farm. I will still look at the legs but if the bulldog loses, I want to blame the lack of crowd.

It is a Melbourne tradition to get up early in the morning to find out what time the pressure is and what it is [Covid case] Are numbers. It was our game when there was no game. On Friday there were only four cases and they were all close contacts, so I am confident we will return.

Chad Parkhil, owner of Dreams Cocktail Bar, has problems with footscreas

We had to open the bar at the first lockdown weekend in Melbourne. In the last two weeks of construction, businesses stopped going to the site because they were worried they might catch the virus. We didn’t finish opening before the lockdown and went on delivery via selling bottle cocktails. We were able to trade between lockout one and two for up to two weeks before we locked up again, and run a small pop up store and receive service.

We have now decided not to deliver again, and we did not reschedule the previous snap lockdown in February. It’s an incredible amount of work to pack the bar completely and rearrange it as a production feature and the rewards aren’t really worth it. We were able to keep our heads above water while delivering last year because I was a worker and we got some rent discount from our landlord, so the delivery allowed us to cover the rent and cover the cost of production and package.

Chad Parkhil, owner of a cocktail bar Fakraskrim in Dreams in Trouble
Chad Parkhil. Photo: Chad Parkhil

I think it is impossible for us to avoid another extended lockdown and we take care of the staff on deliveries.

All of our staff are on part-time contracts so we’ll cover them for the week, and hopefully it won’t be long anymore. I’m trying to be anxious at this stage, mostly because the fundamental anxiety about it is not particularly helpful. There is not much I can do about the virus, its transmission to the community and the government’s response to it.

In the hospitality industry in particular there are some really high profile couples who have made a lot of noise about the impact of lockdown on their business, and I know where they come from. But in terms of the public health response, if that’s what is needed to save lives, then I think it’s for everyone. And any time we notice an increased spread of the virus in the community, we immediately notice a drop in revenue – people are less likely to come in, they cancel bookings. I’d rather have a week of laxatives. This means no revenue for a week if in the following weeks you return to normal in Tuxingo, rather than slowly getting out of the virus.

Mary Gurie, owner and manager of Centage Dress, Brunswick

About last month I saw a nice top line of people who feel more comfortable about having parties. And there were going to be a lot of events this weekend. Our booked racks were bursting.

Lockdown has slammed it. Finished. We’ve actually started a new folder of deferred bookings. People have hurt us and said: “We can’t do this this weekend, but grab our details if we’re going for that party.” So that is comforting.

Yesterday, someone who booked a dress for a photo booth at her party said, “I’m going to have this bad party someday.”

Mary Gary and her son Jimmy Sam
Mary Gary and her son Jimmy Sam. Photo: Nico Keenan

My son and I work in my business. We are both home We drank some beer [Friday] In the afternoon, to do something. Today there are only four cases, I am optimistic it will only be a seven day lockdown. All agencies know how embarrassing it is for business. Everything stops after death.

I’m lucky we’re in the family business, we’ve had it for 36 years and we want to continue. We’ll get there anyway, but there are many businesses out there that have part-time employees and temporary employees who don’t have money for the week.

It annoys me that quarantine is not sorted. The people are outraged at the federal government. Their two jobs were quarantined and vaccinated, and they are both things and I think the main reason is why we are here.

Guy Willoughby, owner of Anthropology Specialty Coffee, Pass Bhel

We’re in good use of this drill right now, we’ve done it many times, so I’m kind of ready to go, but there’s always the worry around the unknown, like the unknown length it can pull, and how customers react. And whether they come out and support us.

But the biggest concern comes with order and planning. Generally, over the past year, we’ve tried to keep our ordering really minimal, because we don’t want too much stock if anything happens. All this can go to waste in just a drop of a hat.

We’re lucky in some ways, we have a takeaway window, so we can operate through it, and we’ve built a pretty good customer base that knows we’re open.

We are mentally preparing for such a situation, it has been a part of our thinking for the past year.

Guy Willoughby, owner of Anthropology Specialty Coffee, Pass Valley
Boy Willoughby. Photo: Boy Willoughby

I’m a supporter of these short lockdowns, we saw that they are effective, but the sooner we climb the higher, the better. It should also encourage people to get vaccinated, which is the right thing to do.

From my point of view, there is not enough information, not well advertised, and it is not clear that deserving people should get it, to stop what we are experiencing right now.

A strong vaccine rollout that more individuals may qualify would be best.

The first things I liked to see were the hospitality staff, the people working in the supermarkets, and most of those low-income jobs that were supplying the community there. They are not eligible for vaccination up to this point.

Employees who take the business should not take the risk. Financial assistance that is more targeted, for business and low-income workers, helps right now, as casual employees are often the hardest hit. They are the ones who lose the most.

Josh Wellington / Bathsheba, Drag Queen, Pride of Fuchscra

For this Saturday, we have a huge event with a drag race down under contestant Art Simon with the President of Footsteps. So for me personally, the fields are an income deficit of about 1,000.

Many artists are not as lucky as me and do not have a full-time job. Without any notice and no government support for anything like that there are problems like “How am I going to pay the rent this week?” We cannot always assume that people are giving up money. With the elimination of the employer, do you have to walk the water? Where do you get that money?

Drag Queen Josh Wellington / Bathsheba
Josh Wellington / Bathsheba. Photo: Daniel Spelling

But there is a side where the performance and performance is very fun and it brings a lot of fun for the person and the performers, and when it is taken away that can be extremely frustrating. I’m so disappointed that we didn’t get to do a show with art, it would be a career milestone for me where my drag came from, and because she wasn’t on TV right now, it would be great. For the Pride of Footcre. Their mindset is “we can pick up the pieces and move on” but the short term effect is that it was almost sold out, and that money won’t drop randomly when things get up next Friday.

It makes me angry when people make jokes about lockdowns like “I need a week off”. I didn’t feel like going out for dinner or getting drunk. – That there are actually people on the other side of the service.

Everyone is affected by lockdown in different ways but some are more affected in the opposite way than others.

Virginia Lovett, executive director and co-chief executive of the Melbourne Theater Company

Last year was an exceptionally difficult year for Victorian companies in particular compared to international companies. We have worked hard to come back. The red flag was raised to put an emergency due to the February shutdown if it happened again, but now that it has happened the weather will appear and be frustrating, and there is concern, but there is also flexibility.

I’m just distracted by the company and staff – when we start to see numbers climbing, we just get back to that mode: “Well, what should we do?” Not only in the practical sense regarding the cancellation of the show, but also in terms of the care of the cast and creatives and staff. Last year, we didn’t have a playbook, but this time we do around. It was all crazy familiar. We all know what we have to do. What we’re most aware of now is the impact on staff and cast and creatives – which we hope is only seven days of worrying about getting in, but it can be long.

Virginia Lovett, executive director of the Melbourne Theater Company
Virginia Lovett. Photo: Ponch Hawks / Melbourne Theater Company

Vaccines will be the key to coming out of it. All the art organizations and theaters in Melbourne have very powerful covid-safe schemes – we’ve been working safely since we opened in January. I think we have an exceptionally safe environment – but when we have a lockdown, the challenge is to rebuild consumer confidence. What we are finding is that people wait a week before booking tickets for shows. They’re not booking as far in advance as they once did. This is a roller coaster for us in terms of budget and forecast.

This is a very difficult situation to model financially. Canceling nine shows at the Arts Center is a big economic hit. We had less weather this year anyway, and we fell short of other revenue forecasts. We hope that people will move their tickets or take credit or offer their ticket price as a donation, but if you are in the last week of a really popular show you will have to return. We put in a little bit of money but it’s hard to put in a buffer because you never know when you’re going to get such shit. That’s why we support Live Performance Australia’s Business Disruption Insurance.

We are becoming practical and working every day. We have construction staff categorized so that we can continue some work and move forward. The government understands that we cannot close completely for trade continuity purposes.

We are talking to the government about strategic relief and ongoing strategic relief as the tail of the covid will be long, especially for Melbourne arts organizations. We’re not out in the woods yet – next year we’re looking at a lower season.

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