Lock-downs are now in force across more than half the Australian population. And while the shut-down of construction has drawn the most attention, the economic pain is continuing for the arts, music and entertainment industry and its predominantly casual workforce.
Unlike 2020, moreover, the federal government has taken its sweet time in responding, with is Covid disaster payment introduced just last week. Casuals can claim $375 or $600 per week, depending on the hours they formerly worked, but may only apply for the payment from a week after lock-down commenced in their area.
This has left a lot of low-paid workers on the hook. That’s not to mention all the staff who were being paid off the books, who lack the paper trail to prove they have lost work.
While the squeeze is on, it’s been a breath of fresh air to see the solidarity on display in the hospitality industry. In inner Sydney, where lock-downs have been in force for coming up to four weeks, many venues are handing out their unused perishable stock to out-of-work staff. Wine and cheese bars are doing their bit with hand-outs organised over social media.
Others are going all out and dedicating their kitchens and expertise to putting together care packages for hungry mouths.
Every Wednesday, Australian Venue Co. is dishing out free meals to out-of-work casuals from Bungalow in Darling Harbour, while Burrow Bar in the city is dishing up care packages with a hot meal. Free burgers are also on offer at Sneaky Possum in Chippendale.
Perth also stepped out to help out. The West Coast’s Mechanics Institute small bar donated profits to Sydney’s Door Knock cocktail bar in order to fund a care package and Woolworths gift card give-away.
Others have reached out to regulars for help. Petersham’s Oxford Tavern started pitching support-your-local merch alongside its take-away orders, then used the profits to buy groceries for its staff.
The venue has also been cooking a free burger for any out-of-work casual who shows up, along with a shot and a canned G&T to wash it down.
While governments have mostly been dragging their feet on all fronts this winter, it’s heartening to see hospitality businesses and staff, who are mostly struggling themselves, coming together to fill those gaps.
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