The Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, today congratulated Prime Minister Scott Morrison on his announcement of a $130bn wage relief package, saying the money was a “huge comfort” which went significantly toward reducing the financial strain on business and the uncertainty of their staff.

Speaking after the government announced $1,500 would be paid per employee per fortnight – effectively placing a floor under continuing jobs – Mr Zimmerman said the package was a big leap forward in terms of ensuring “hibernating” businesses could emerge from the Coronavirus crisis with their teams intact.

“We know one of biggest pressures that responses to the Coronavirus pandemic have placed on retailers are wage costs, and this package will relieve a huge portion of that burden at a time of minimal retail turnover,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Mr Zimmerman said the fact the government’s JobKeeper package applied to workers who had already been stood down – affecting tens of thousands of retail employees – meant that families who last week effectively faced a protracted period without jobs or income could be more confident they would be able to weather the shutdown.

“This covers a six-month period, with payments commencing in early May and backdated to today; it’s a lot easier to hold out for a couple of months in some cases than for what may turn out to be a six-month shutdown,” he said.

This package brings huge comfort to both retailers and their staff, and we congratulate the government,” he added.

Mr Zimmerman said the package applied to workers stood down since 1 March, and covered all categories of employment – full-time, part time, and casual – provided people had been with their employer for a minimum of twelve months.

Mr Zimmerman noted the assistance from the federal government applied to any business or not-for-profit which had experienced a downturn in revenue of 30% or more, and said this would particularly benefit the retail sector.

“We know of retailers – and not just small retailers or sole traders – who have reported revenue losses to us of more than 75% from this time last year, so the government’s initiative is going to save a lot of businesses and jobs,” he said.

“We’d like to offer the Prime Minister our heartiest congratulations on what he has announced today to support retail businesses and jobs, and we stand ready to offer whatever industry assistance we can to make the implementation of the package as seamless and as efficient as possible,” Mr Zimmerman concluded.

ENDS…for more details: Tim Janczuk (m) 0431 045 373 (e) media@retail.org.au

About us: founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association is Australia’s largest retail association, representing a $325bn sector employing more than 1.3m people. As Australia’s premier retail body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members. To learn more, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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