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Surprises for retail and hospitality in govt announcements on testing and rent relief

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Retail NZ and Hospitality NZ say they have concerns about the Government’s request for retail workers to get COVID-19 tests, and the Ministerial announcement about rent relief for future COVID-19 lockdowns.

"The retail sector was surprised by Dr Bloomfield’s request today that retail workers in Auckland to have two COVID-19 tests over the next week," Greg Harford, Retail NZ Chief Executive said today. "Level 3 is a difficult environment for retailers to be working in, and many are already receiving significant levels of abuse from customers. This new request for surveillance testing of retail and hospitality workers will lead to additional stress.

"If it is important to maintain surveillance testing of retail workers, then the Government should roll out low-impact saliva testing that can be done in the workplace, rather than requiring workers to undertake an invasive PCR test and travel to testing sites that are only open limited hours.

"Retail and hospitality are already severely restricted at Alert Level 3, and businesses are operating under strict health and safety protocols. Only a very limited number of essential stores are allowed to be open to the public, with only contactless click and collect services or contactless delivery available from other businesses. These restrictions have been designed and imposed by Government to restrict the spread of COVID-19 and come at a massive economic cost. It is just not reasonable to ask every retail worker to undergo testing, and it is not reasonable to expect employers to provide time off for this.

Hospitality New Zealand CEO Julie White agreed. "The testing request is a ludicrous suggestion while we operate contactless businesses, suffering from low revenue, and when some businesses cannot even open."

Rent relief announcement not enough

While Retail NZ and Hospitality NZ are supportive of the principle that proportional rent relief should be made available to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions, today’s announcement that the Government will require this for all commercial leases moving forward simply does not go far enough, the two organisations say.

"The retail and hospitality sectors have been crying out for Government leadership on this issue for 18 months, and nothing is being put forward to help resolve current rent-relief deadlocks," Greg Harford from Retail NZ said. "While it is good news that the Government is looking to help negotiations in future lockdowns, the reality is that many businesses are struggling to get their landlords to agree to reasonable arrangements to cover the last six weeks.

Julie White from Hospitality NZ said that businesses are desperate for support. "Since mid-August, most retail and hospitality businesses have had almost no revenue coming in, and some landlords have not been willing to negotiate reasonable terms. The Government has provided no specific support for businesses to manage rent situations, and no incentive for parties to negotiate. Retail NZ and Hospitality NZ would like to see some additional support to landlords and tenants to resolve issues that have arisen since the latest lockdowns began in mid-August."

Note to editors: Retail NZ and Hospitality NZ are the peak bodies for their respective sectors, and represent thousands of businesses, large and small, around the country.

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