End of JobKeeper threat to thousands of jobs

JobKeeper end - is your business on the line?

For thousands of workers in the accommodation industry, the end of JobKeeper is like sitting on a barbed wire fence.

It’s mighty uncomfortable and the future is painfully uncertain.

The JobKeeper wage subsidy expired at the end of March after 12 months, two extensions and an outlay of about $93 billion.

Dr Steven Kennedy, the Secretary to the Australian Treasury, said about 1.1 million Australians were being supported by JobKeeper when it ended, and that “100,000 to 150,000 jobs would be lost” as a result of it expiring.

Dean Long, the CEO of the Accommodation Association of Australia, said the end of JobKeeper was the final blow to the industry that “we’ve been fighting hard to put off.”

“The two markets that have had the most job losses are Sydney and Melbourne because of their reliance on the international and corporate business,” Mr Long said.

“Some areas in Australia are going really well but Sydney and Melbourne are our two leading international gateways with the highest ability to employ staff. Those markets haven’t recovered and are still down more than 60 percent on guests, with forward occupancy at only nine percent.”

Mr Long said that pre-COVID, Sydney and Melbourne hotels had an average of 0.4 staff per room and it’s now down to 0.2. Recently there were another 1200 redundancies in the accommodation sector in Sydney.

“We now face a major skill shortage with the end of JobKeeper,” he said.

“That’s why we have been calling for a continuation of some form of subsidy from the government because we are having good occupancy on the weekends when we need the staff, but unfortunately it’s the midweek activity brought on by border closures which hasn’t allowed us to maintain the staffing ratios we need.

“The Accommodation Association and Tourism Accommodation Australia have both been pushing for the government to adopt a $270 million support package to provide that lifeline to the industry and stabilise income to keep employees from being lost to the sector. “We didn’t need JobKeeper to go on forever but only until the international borders reopened.”

Regional businesses fared better than those in metropolitan capitals in the final stage of the $93 billion wage assistance program, but tourism hotspots including Byron Bay and Port Douglas remained reliant on taxpayer-funded help until the end.

In total, 15 percent of Australia’s 2.4 million businesses accessed JobKeeper in January.

Jen Baxter, who has run the Heritage Motel in Bendigo for three years and is treasurer of the Bendigo Motel Association, told AccomNews her property hasn’t been affected yet by the end of JobKeeper but “going forward there is no way to predict that everything will be OK.

“Lockdowns mean there is no certainty about bookings anymore, everything seems to be last minute,” Ms Baxter said, “and we saw the Brisbane lockdown a couple of weeks ago come out of nowhere.

“Our staff have been using JobKeeper but it’s the multiple hits all at once that are a worry for the industry with rent relief ending as well.

“We’ve had a good start to the year but no one knows what that will look like going into winter which is traditionally a quieter time for Bendigo. People tend to go north for the holidays but our bills are bigger.”

One of the places southern tourists will hit this winter is Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and former cop Brad Atkins will be waiting for them at his property The Dunes, at Cotton Tree.

Some properties are reporting phenomenal holiday business because of the pent-up demand caused by COVID and his is one of them.

“My location makes a big difference because this ends up as being a long weekend destination for Brisbane and with New Zealand visitors coming now my phone is ringing red hot,’’ Mr Atkins said.

“The end of JobKeeper doesn’t affect us much because we have great occupancy.

“The only problem for hotels up here is they couldn’t get cleaners, couldn’t get staff because many of them were making more money staying home on JobKeeper.

 “We had friends with a resort and their cleaners just walked out because they made more money not working.”

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