January 2022

Context:

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, COVID-19 has had significant impact on local Fremantle businesses across all sectors.

Across the last two years the Fremantle Chamber has been actively working to reduce negative impacts, and assist businesses to comply with the ever-changing requirements of the State and Federal Governments management of the pandemic. These initiatives have included:

  • Working with our Members to share packs on information on how to negotiate with landlords, offers of support to mediate these, packs on HR checklists to manage staff, templates for vaccination evidence requests to staff and processes for managing reluctance to vaccinate, information on decision making and managing potential insolvency risks.
  • Providing access on FREE web based forums on the economic stimulus packages and what it means for business.
  • Lobbying local government, in particular the City, for rate relief for our businesses and tenants during the height of the pandemic in 2020.
  • Releasing our own tenants who have applied for hardship claims and managing our own losses of revenue during the height of the pandemic in 2020.
  • Negotiating with the federal government to release Directors and Business Owners who are at risk of trading insolvent during this period.
  • Negotiating with the federal government on the initial IFAM assist our exporters to get flights so they can continue to export our fresh products overseas to markets.
  • Negotiating with the State government on small business packages and information.
  • Launching “Doorstep Dinners” with no government assistance or support to help some iconic Fremantle businesses and those most socially isolated and in need to get access to fresh meals each day during last year’s lockdowns.
  • Advocating for Fremantle’s hospitality and retail sector as they experience anti-social behaviour and aggression in light of compulsory vaccinations and mask mandates, as well mounting pressure with low patronage, labour supply shortages and supply chain pressures on food and produce.

There are a number of significant changes in practice and procedures as the State faces the first community transition of the Omicron variant, prepares for relaxing of Border restrictions at some stage in the near future, and requirements around compulsory vaccination.

“High-risk” industries required full vaccination by December 31, 2021, and we are now at a stage where evidence of vaccination is required for entry in most public venues and workplaces by January 31, 2022. There are significant penalties for “non-compliance”, up to $100,000 for employers, and up to $20,000 for individual employees. Employees will have to provide proof of their vaccination and businesses will need to maintain those records. Details on the new rules across different industries are available in the State Government summary here.

From 31 January 2022, this new requirement applies to visitors over 16 years of age, for the expanded list of industries below:

  • Seated hospitality venues (i.e restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, clubs, taverns, night clubs and dine-in fast food – but not roadhouses, service stations and takeaway);
  • Indoor entertainment venues (play centres, gaming and gambling, theatres, concert halls, museums, cinemas and live music venues);
  • Bottle shops;
  • Crown Perth;
  • Stadiums;
  • Hospitals and aged care;
  • Gyms, fitness centres and health studios;
  • Amusement parks and the Zoo;
  • Music festivals;
  • and any other event with more than 500 attendees.

Many businesses will need to consider how to manage compliance with this new government direction, which may mean being prepared to refuse entry or service to some customers. There are a number of local Fremantle businesses actively lobbying for a by-law to remove some of these restrictions and front line staff have been put in some difficult positions in recent weeks trying to manage aggression and inappropriate behaviour from non complying patrons.

The WA Government has launched the ServiceWA app, to help us all transition with WA’s Safe Transition. The app allows people to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination, check in at businesses and venues with SafeWA, and access their G2G Pass for interstate travel and access important COVID-19 information in one place.

The challenge for the Chamber in responding or formulating a position on these issues is the differing perspectives of our different sectors and membership bases. This position papers aims to consolidate those views into a single position.

https://www.wa.gov.au/government/covid-19-coronavirus/covid-19-coronavirus-latest-updates

OVERALL POSITION

It is imperative from a reputation perspective that Fremantle continues to be a destination of choice. This includes being safe and welcoming to all visitors, clients and contractors. This means ensuring staff are vaccinated, apps updated, vaccination checks are in place and our workplaces are in the best position possible in the lead up to boarders opening.

It is also important that all West Australian businesses review their plans to ensure their workplaces are COVID-safe.

Local Business Position on Border Restrictions Easing

Overall, the Fremantle business community, particularly our long-suffering Tourism sector, welcomed the planned easing of border restrictions on 5 February and the uncertainty of not having a date now in place is raising concerns. There are some concerns around further impacts to music and creative events, staff shortages, supply chain blocks and processes to manage vaccine mandates. We trust that the State and Federal Governments will continue to consider these impacts and put measures in place to try to ease the impact on business.

We also concur with our industry colleagues that as our reliance on a hard border is lifted, it’s critical that WA and every other State further prioritises and strengthens testing, tracing and quarantine systems. These investments will be important to give businesses and the community reassurance that the risks will be managed.

We will be running a Set the Month in Motion podcast forum on 2 February to help advice businesses on how they can ensure their workplaces and people are COVID-safe, and on 2 March to look at potential skill shortages and any assistance with pathways and recruitment across the hospitality sector, and marine businesses.

We also recommend as cases escalate that businesses look to split work teams and seek early advice on RATs when they become available. The Chamber will work with members Nourish Health & Fremantle Pharmacy to provide the most up to date information possible on RATs.

Vaccination Mandates

The Fremantle Chamber supports the requirements of vaccination to protect our community and visitors to our Port City.

We recommend businesses consider the following directions in preparing their workforces for the mandate requirements.

Safe Work Australia chair Diane Smith-Gander AO FAICD outlines what directors need to know on vaccines and the workplace in an Australian Institute of Company Directors article at the link here.

There is also a new guide prepared by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry that sets out to show how employers can play their part in the vaccine roll out and how to navigate issues related to vaccinations that may arise in the workplace, including the mandating of vaccines. This document is available here.

Other relevant documents on the vaccination mandate, including relevant exemptions can be found here:

CCIWA COVID-19 Vaccination Guides & Templates

CCIWA Mandatory Vaccination Rules Guide

A recent ABC interview by Chamber CEO Danicia Quinlan is featured at 1:46:30 in the ABC Breakfast show here.