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Unions call for businesses to support staff during lockdown

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and BusinessNZ are calling on businesses to ensure they maintain their workforces throughout the Government-mandated lockdown. 

According to a joint statement, employers should be doing all they can to protect Kiwi jobs and stay connected throughout the lockdown period. 

“That means taking up the Government’s support packages to enable staff to take sick leave, isolate, work from home if they can, and stopping business operations if they are not an essential service,” BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said. 

The New Zealand government is offering wage subsidies, loan assistance and sick leave support, while working people are doing their bit through providing essential services and by otherwise staying home, according to CTU president Richard Wagstaff.

And according to Wagstaff, employers can do their bit by keeping operations going, supporting their staff, and working on strategies to maintain their employees.

“We will get through these difficult times, but it will require everyone to pull together including government, business, working people and their unions,” Wagstaff said. 

The calls come as neighbouring nation Australia grapples with mass unemployment as many businesses stand down workers they are unable to support, with queues snaking around the block to reach the country’s welfare system, Centrelink. 

According to Westpac chief economist Bill Evans, the unemployment rate of Australia is set to jump from 5.1 per cent to 11.1 per cent.

In contrast, New Zealand’s unemployment rate sits at 4 per cent according to StatsNZ, though this figure has not been updated since February. 

Economists recently told Stuff that the figure could soon jump to 5.5 per cent, or higher than the 6.8 per cent seen during the GFC. 

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