COVID-19 Coronavirus - Advice for members

Coronavirus COVID-19 Advice and Resources.

Update on COVID response and IR reforms

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9 June 2020

I wanted to get in touch with you again now that the road back to normality is looking somewhat clearer and to share some information from the COVID bodies we are involved with on your behalf. As well, I would be most interested in hearing your views on the recovery path.

Firstly, thanks to those of you who have already paid your membership subscription. As you would know, peak organisations like Ai Group take the role of trusted advisers to governments at the best of times and we are even more essential at the worst of times. The voices of individual businesses can get lost in a crisis and we are there to represent your interests.

At the federal level we are members of groups such as the COVID Commission and deeply involved in the Industrial Relations reform process as a peak organisation. Similarly, we are involved in discussions on responding to the crisis at a state level.

The manufacturing report of the COVID Commission is being finalised and will be presented to the Government shortly. I will share it with you when it is available but I can say it gives the government extensive advice on how we can make our economy stronger and more self-reliant coming out of this pandemic. I was involved in a webinar last week with the Commission’s manufacturing chair, Andrew Liveris, which canvassed the many issues on the group's agenda. You can access a recording at this link if you would like further information.

On IR reform, I attended the first roundtable with unions and the Attorney General, Christian Porter, last Wednesday. It got off to a positive start with a focus on reforms that will drive a productivity and jobs agenda in the common good. I can’t say how far the union/employer consensus will go except to say that my message has been that given our economic circumstances, it is important that we all work together in the national interest. This is just one of many initiatives that Ai Group is involved in across the country to help businesses get through this crisis and set up for the future. We have summarised some key issues in each of the five subject areas targeted for reform in a report released over the weekend. It is based on some initial consultations with groups of members which will continue as the review progresses.

At that IR meeting we had a briefing on the economy which is clearly in recession, technical or not. The briefing emphasised that while we have broken the back of the spread of the disease, we are facing deep and long-term economic consequences. Without breaching confidentiality, there have been some public reports from the briefing which have referred to unemployment levels remaining high for five to seven years and a 10 per cent hit to GDP. Our own Ai Group data and official Federal Government data continues to show a 10 per cent unemployment rate by the end of June, an 8 per cent drop in our national GDP and possibly negative inflation as we end the financial year.

The positive take is that we are on top of the disease spread and we are in much stronger economic conditions than many of our trading partners. We discussed economic and investment issues in another webinar last week with AustralianSuper Deputy CEO Mark Delaney. You can access a recording of the webinar at this link.

I know many of you continued your operations during the shutdown but even those in that situation may have had back offices working from home. Returning to the offices will be a long process, varying state-by-state, as we seek to balance our health and safety with our changing business requirements. I expect the transition to offices will step up pace from July 1. We have a lot of information on our website advising on return to the office strategies so please take advantage of that. It is a nightmare for businesses negotiating the mess of varying state restrictions and our Workplace Adviceline can help in that regard.

So finally, we are far from being out of the woods and there is a lot of hard work to come, but with your support we can keep the interests of businesses at the forefront of national and state planning for the way ahead.

Your feedback and advice is always appreciated and I would very much like to hear from you:


Stay safe,
Innes Willox
Chief Executive - Ai Group

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