COVID-19 Response from the Department of Industry and temporary changes to the Modern Nursery Award

3 April 2020
Dear Members and Stakeholders

I hope you have had a reasonable week as we continue to navigate our way through the ever-evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Here is the latest update on key activities including a response from the Office of the Minister for Industry; and a submission on behalf of industry to the Fairwork Commission following yesterday’s announcements on ‘leave’.

Our main focus continues to be ensuring all our businesses can continue to operate and trade.

To support you we have developed a range of materials to use including a workplace poster and other resources available HERE.

Workplace Health and Safety

This topic is the first in each e-news update as it is the most important aspect of ensuring your health and the health of your staff and your customers. It is also the most important aspect of managing your business to keep it operating and able to trade.

Please continue to follow and comply with the Government guidelines and instructions on health, hygiene, social/physical distancing and gatherings. It is vital this can be demonstrated to anyone and everyone. It is also vitally important in supporting the case we are making to Government around the importance of production and retail nurseries and allied supplier businesses to keeping businesses operating.

We believe that the community will have confidence and be reassured by your safety practices, if they can see are following the guidelines and helping them to access greenlife.

Working together – Your National and State Associations

I continue to meet weekly with our State Association Members and we are working together to ensure our approach and messages to Federal and State Departments are consistent. In our meeting this week, we were joined by Ben Peacock of the Republic of Everyone. Ben provided the group with an update of the activities being conducted under the levy-funded program. Additionally, as a united group, we identified a 4 Point Plan for the industry to follow. The group acknowledged that to be most effective, each Association needs to be advocating in their respective jurisdictions, such as transport.

Please be assured that all the Associations are working to keep businesses trading and ‘the green alive’

Advocacy for Member Businesses and Greenlife Supply Chain

We continue to make representation to the Federal Government with a particular focus on the Minister and Department for Agriculture, Water and Environment and the Minister and Department for Industry, Science and Technology.

Department of Agriculture, Water & Environment

I am in regular communication with the Senior Advisor to Minister Littleproud. This week he has advised that “things are going as well as expected” and he continued to confirm the importance of agriculture and primary production in providing food as well as reiterating there are no barriers to interstate transport.

While transport is continuing, please be aware that State Governments have gradually implemented varying border crossing requirements. If you need to deliver a service or product in a different State, we encourage you to review the relevant State Government’s approach to travel and transport or contact your State Association for more information.

Department of Industry, Innovation & Science

Glenn Fenton also wrote to the Hon Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry. The Office of the Minister's response included:

“Currently, all businesses except those deemed as non-essential are permitted to operate. (Production and Retail Nurseries are not on the non-essential list currently). The business.gov.au website will be updated should further restrictions be put in place.

There is currently not a formal process for awarding essential status, nor do we envisage declaring it for individual businesses or industries on a case-by-case basis.

I want to assure you that the Federal Government is very aware of the need to ensure that those who service and contribute to the continued operation of manufacturing supply chains for food and health; or support the provision of those services or other vital community infrastructure, must remain operational at all times for the benefit of the community.

We understand this is a challenging time for all Australians and thank you for your continuing contributions to the Australian community.”

Nevertheless, our industry needs to demonstrate, to all Governments, our preparedness and ability to preserve and maintain all greenlife while reducing the transmission risk of COVID-19 within our businesses. It is for this reason I am reiterating how important it is to develop a contingency plan. You can download a business contingency plan template HERE. Please be aware this document is regularly updated as more information becomes available.

Nursery Award

The Fairwork Commission has advised that the Nursery Award is among the 103 modern awards being considered for proposed variation.

The provisional view regarding the variation is to provide an entitlement to unpaid ‘pandemic leave’ and the flexibility to take annual leave at half pay.

GIA and the State NGIs are supportive of this approach and NGIV’s Industrial Relations consultant is drafting a submission in that regard. The variations proposed would operate until 30 June 2020

We (GIA and State NGIs) are also considering another variation, if allowed, would provide Member businesses with the legal ability and framework to do what they need to manage employees and cash flow in the short term. A submission is also being drafted to lodge with the Commission as proposed:

  • Revised classification of duties (i.e. outside of a job description)
  • Reduced minimum hours for employees working from home,
  • An agreed temporary variation in hours,
  • The ability to agree to a reduced payment for annual leave over a longer period (stretch),
  • An employer can direct an employee to take annual leave, with one week's notice.

Again, the GIA Board and State NGIs have supported the progress of this submission which is due on Monday 6 April.

Stimulus Package

GIA continues to review and summarise the federal stimulus packages as they announced. The details of the three stimulus packages can be found HERE. You should also note that some State and Territory Governments are also preparing their own stimulus packages and you should refer to your State Association for those details. I would also encourage you to seek your own professional advice in relation to your individual circumstances and to understand the finer details of each initiative.

Greenlife Industry COVID-19 Marketing Campaign

The Greenlife Industry Board has supported the development of a COVID-19 marketing campaign. A committee of Josh Byrne (Chair), John Van der Horst, Tim Pickles, Robin McLay, Marc Patterson, Carl Heyne and Carole Fudge has been established and met for the first time yesterday.

The Committee provided some thoughtful insights which are being collated into a brief for a marketing consultant to provide a proposal. The Committee will be meeting fortnightly and as the campaign develops, the information will be shared with Industry.

To fund the plan, the GIA Board has approved seed funding of $25,000 which will get the consultant engaged and started. I have had some enquiries from businesses interested in supporting the campaign. If you are interested in hearing more about this concept please contact me directly.

Retail Businesses

Retail nursery businesses are the public face of our industry. Both employers, staff, and customers need to feel safe in the current climate. To help, read 10 Tips for Keeping Your Retail Business Afloat for some ideas. I have spoken to a number of retail businesses who have indicated that trade was brisk over March with the next test being trade over April, which is traditionally a good trading month.

One tip I did hear as a good approach to assisting with social distance was if you can have a separate entrance and exit with a hand sanitising station at both. I suggest this could be taken further to even trying to have one-way traffic flow through the business, like Ikea. It takes customers past all the plants and input products, stops customers from running into each other and helps maintain social distancing.

If you would like more information on any of the detail above, please contact me (0400 739 802) alternatively, please email peter.vaughan@greenlifeindustry.com.au

Regards
Peter Vaughan
CEO Greenlife Industry Australia.
More information?
As the COVID-19 situation is extremely dynamic and rapidly evolving, Members and key stakeholders are encouraged to share their concerns and any information updates via the industry’s national information hotline on 1300 905 643. Additional information and resources are also available at www.greenlifeindustry.com.au. Where immediate updates are required, an Alert will be issued.