The federal government is reportedly planning to pay wages on behalf of struggling businesses.
The plan would see the government pay up to 80 per cent of wages for businesses to keep their workers as many companies have been forced to lay off staff due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg were reportedly finalising details of the plan on Saturday night, the Australian Financial Review reported.
The emergency wage payments – similar to those introduced by the UK, Canada and Denmark – are expected to be announced as early as Sunday.
About one million Australians are expected to lose their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak which has effectively shut down the global economy.
Dozens of established businesses have been forced to shut up shop as they struggle to survive.
The wage subsidies provided by the government will be paid to businesses that keep workers on their books, and plan to keep them employed once the coronavirus crisis is over.
Many Australian companies have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bootmakers R.M. Williams has shut all of its stores due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The renowned brand said the coronavirus crisis had ‘stopped us mid-stride’ and forced it to temporarily close its doors.
It is the latest in a string of major retailers to close amid the ongoing pandemic, which has claimed 14 lives in Australia and infected more than 3,600 people.
Australia’s most beloved shoe brand, R.M. Williams has been a stalwart of the high street for 88 years.
‘The COVID-19 crisis has stopped us mid-stride so to say, on a global level, affecting humanity at every level,’ the company said in a statement.
Myer will close all of its department stores in Australia and stand down 10,000 staff members for at least a month.
Bosses said the department giant – which has been an Australian institution for 120 years – would close its doors on Sunday, but would still run online.
It is the latest victim of the coronavirus retail fallout, which is leaving tens of thousands of Australians unemployed as stores shut their doors.
Around 10,000 members of staff will be sent home without pay, Myer bosses confirmed.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG AT MYER?
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the iconic Australian department store had been struggling with plunging profits for almost a decade.
In the midst of the so-called department store wars Myer and its main rival David Jones sought to differentiate themselves in the battle for customer’s hard-earned dollars.
In 2015, David Jones decided to concentrate on the higher end market, focusing on leading international and Australian designer brands, while Myer sought to capture the more mid-range market.
This, new Myer CEO John King said, is where the store began to lose its direction.
Myers shelves began to be stocked with brand after brand of similar mid-range labels while the customer experience of visiting the store was neglected.
In a statement, they said the decision was made to protect the health of staff, customers and the ‘broader community’.
The closure will be for an initial period of four weeks, leading up to April 27, but may go on longer.
The embattled department store has suffered plunging profits for almost a decade, long before coronavirus hit.
Its latest financial results posted on March 5 reflect this, showing total sales down 3.8 per cent to $1.6 billion.
‘As team members will not be working they will not be paid during this period of imposed closure,’ the statement read.
‘Full time and part time members have greater flexibility to access their annual leave and long service entitlements in addition to government assistance measures.’
It said it was ‘fully supportive’ of the government’s social distancing measures, including people staying at home as much as possible.
Global health experts said that people staying home and keeping isolated is the best way to curb the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 3,000 Australians.
It comes soon after Australia’s biggest hairdressing chain, Just Cuts, announced it would also close its doors.
Signalling huge changes to Australian life, Bunnings will operate limited hours, and all restaurants – including the likes of McDonald’s – are only operating as a takeaway.
But the measures will hit the economy hard, leaving many desperate for work as staff are laid off on mass.
Westpac, Australia’s second biggest bank, fears the national jobless rate will more than double by June, from 5.1 per cent to 11.1 per cent.
This would see 814,000 people lose their jobs, as unemployment soared to the highest level since December 1992.
Westpac is also forecasting an economic contraction in the March, June and September quarters, which would mark the first technical recession in 29 years.
This downturn would be even more severe than the global financial crisis of a decade ago.
General Pants, Smiggle, and Peter Alexander have also temporarily closed due to the coronavirus fallout.
The brands are owned by tycoon Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, which announced a shutdown of Australian stores from Thursday.
Around 9,000 of the company’s staff around the world will be stood down without pay until at least April 22.
The group’s bosses will be working from home without pay.
Announcing its own closure on Friday night, bosses at Just Cuts said they could ‘no longer wait for the National Cabinet to do the right thing’ and close salons, with both staff and clients at increasing risk from coronavirus.
The Australian government has come under increasing pressure to force a further shutdown of the country to help stop the spread of the disease.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 3,637
New South Wales: 1,617
South Australia: 287
Western Australia: 278
Australian Capital Territory: 71
Northern Territory: 15
TOTAL CASES: 3,637
Just Cuts CEO Denis McFadden said the current COVID-19 restrictions were ‘impossible to maintain’ and that there was a ‘physical risk and mental toll on hairdressers and clients’.
In a damning statement, he accused the government of leaving the public at risk of infection and said they were ‘putting people’s lives on the line’.
He said he had pleaded with the Australian government to add hairdressing to its list of non-essential services, but the calls ‘fell on deaf ears’.
None of its 190 salons, or 2,500 employees, will carry on working.
‘We had hoped that common sense would finally kick in and the State, Federal and Territory Governments would act on the medical advice that safe distancing is critical,’ Mr McFadden said on Friday night.
‘National Cabinet has today failed to act on our pleas to add hairdressing to the list of non-essential services.
‘This is despite calls from medical experts including the Australian Medical Association for more and stronger self-distancing measures.’
Around 8,000 workers for Woolworths pubs and pokies joint venture have been stood down on March 24.
ALH group, jointly owned by Woolworths and the Mathieson family, operates more than 300 licensed venues across Australia but was forced to shut these down after the government ordered all ‘non-essential’ businesses close due to coronavirus.
Thousands have since been left without a job but the supermarket giant said that within a day nearly 3,000 would be redeployed.
RAG Group, which owns Tarocash, YD and Connor, closed 500 stores and stood down 3,000 workers on Friday.
The same happened at Accent Group – which owns Athlete’s Foot, Platypus and Hype – which announced the closure of 522 stores and the standing down of around 5,000 staff.It also closed stores from Friday for at least four weeks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a host of new restrictions on Friday, with all arrivals in Australia from overseas now being put into quarantine.
From 11.50pm on Saturday, all travellers arriving in the country will be escorted off flights by defence force personnel and whisked away to new quarantine hotels.
Several are being set up across state capitals.
AUSTRALIA’S ‘STAGE TWO’ COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS
The government is looking to limit interactions between groups, particularly any event or gathering with 10 or more people.
The new restrictions, from 11.59pm on March 25, mean:
* Food courts in shopping centres will only be available for takeaway food. No sitting.
* Auction houses will shut. Auctions and open house inspections are banned.
* Outdoor and indoor markets are banned while rules around major food markets will be addressed by states and territories.
* Personal services such as beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlours (but not physiotherapy) are banned.
* Hairdressers and barbers can continue but must strictly manage social distancing
* Amusement parks and arcades, and indoor and outdoor play centres must close.
* Boot camps and personal training must be limited to 10 people and enforce social distancing.
* Social sports such as large groups of people playing soccer in a park are banned.
* Galleries, museums, libraries, youth centres, community halls, clubs, RSLs and swimming pools must close.
* Weddings can continue to be conducted where it is just the couple the celebrant and two witnesses, no more than five people.
* Funerals are limited to no more than 10 people – but with some exceptions granted by states and territories.
* It is safe to send children to school up to the end of the term.
* But some pupil-free days will be needed to plan distance learning.
* Schools will reopen after the term break with a mix of distance learning and in-school learning for all “essential workers”.
* PM to meet with teachers and other sector representatives about keeping schools open and protecting staff.
* Everyone who still has a job is an essential worker.
* The official “do no travel” warning is now an outright ban on overseas travel, with some exceptions such as aid workers and compassionate travel.
* New offence of profiteering and seeking to export goods overseas, relating to such things as medical supplies and masks.