Big response to petition calling for business Covid support parity with employees

An Auckland Business Chamber Covid petition asking the Government to support struggling businesses in the same way as employees has attracted more than 7000 signatures just a few hours after it was launched.

Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said the petition to Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson was launched at 11am on Monday, on the basis that with Auckland likely to be locked down for a further two weeks it was time that employers were offered a similar package that is being offered to employees.

“Currently employees are receiving the wage subsidy from Government and if business claim the wage subsidy for employees it means they should pay the employees 80 per cent of their wage.

“For business this means the employers are topping up the Government subsidy at a time where they have no revenue coming in.On top of this cost, business has its weekly overheads of rent, rates, subscriptions, hire purchases and a range of other costs.

“The Government does offer a one-off resurgence payment, however if you look at this, it’s equivalent to about 60 per cent of one week’s overheads.As the Government extends the lockdown employers need the same recognition as employees.”

Barnett said the aim was to send a message to Government that these are tough times for business.

“We have been asked to pause business so that Government can implement their elimination strategy for the good of New Zealand so a continuation of the resurgence package is not a big ask.”

Most signatories so far seemed to be small to medium businesses, he said.

Barnett said businesses needed to keep staff for when New Zealand emerged from Covid restrictions but they were doing this out of their own pockets when no cash was coming in.

Businesses also had the weekly costs to meet of rents, rates, hire purchase and power bills – costs that were coming out of their pockets.

“There are dollars going out and none coming in. Businesses will very quickly become cash poor.”

The petition, which closes on Friday, had been launched through the northern chamber of commerce hub, comprising chambers in the upper North Island, but by mid-Monday afternoon had quickly gathered support through social media channels, Barnett said.

The Government resurgence support payment is a one-off payment to help support viable and ongoing businesses or organisations due to a Covid-19 alert level increase to level 2 or higher.

The wage subsidy is a payment to support employers so they can continue to pay employees and protect jobs for businesses affected by the move to alert level 4 on August 17.

To qualify for the subsidy, businesses must have had, or predict, at least a 40 per cent decline in revenue attributed to the move to level 4 over a period of 14 consecutive days between August 17 and 31 inclusive.

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