COVID-19: time for co-operation and new ways of doing work
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is posing significant challenges for MEAA’s members, particularly those engaged in performance and front-of-house related duties.
The industries MEAA covers rely in large part on audiences turning up and touring, so the coronavirus represents a cruel double-pronged threat for performing arts workers.
At this stage in the health emergency, MEAA’s message is one of harm minimisation: protecting the health of those working in our industries; and helping rather than penalising those impacted by the virus.
We remind all employers and contracting parties of their clear responsibilities to provide safe and healthy working environments for those working on their premises or in their name. MEAA will step up its monitoring of workplaces potentially affected by the virus as this health emergency unfolds. Our priority is our members’ personal health and wellbeing.
MEAA welcomes statements issued by Screen Producers Australia and Live Performance Australia that have broadly embraced a ‘business as usual’ approach to managing upcoming events. This is consistent with government public health advice.
SPA and the LPA have also urged restraint with respect to standing down employees and terminating contractor services.
The bottom line must be to minimise loss of employment and financial disadvantage for all workers in the media, entertainment and arts industries.
MEAA however acknowledges that the full extent of coranavirus is not yet known. As events unfold, it is possible the impact on the performing arts sector will be considerable.
These impacts will be twofold: the extent to which the health of individuals working in the sector is affected; and the unquantifiable extent to which the community stays away from events large and small in order to manage their own exposure to the virus.
MEAA urges action at two levels, for employers and for governments.
Beyond occupational health and safety obligations, MEAA implores employers:
• to implement formal and informal leave arrangements in cooperation with staff, especially where casual employment is concerned;
• maximise opportunities to work from home for those able to work;
• compassionately review carer leave arrangements for workers caring for an infected or quarantined person;
• ensure continuity of employment is unaffected by breaks in duties caused by the virus; and
• look for alternative work to be performed where employees or contractors cannot undertake duties at the usual place of work.
Ultimately, MEAA members and the community at large expect federal and state governments to manage issues proactively.
MEAA strongly supports the ACTU’s call for a further two weeks leave to be made available to employees and that equivalent entitlements be extended to individual contractors who are impacted by the virus.
Many performers, crew and front of house staff are already working at the economic margins as a result of intermittent work and relatively low levels of income security.
Beyond assistance to individual workers and contractors, governments of all stripes must urgently examine measures to financially assist the performing arts through any coronavirus-related economic trough.
The capacity of this virus to incapacitate whole sectors is perhaps unrivalled. We urge those in control of public purses to use their best instincts and imagination to chart a course through these difficult times.
MEAA members seeking more information, advice or assistance about coronavirus should contact MEAA Member Central on 1300 656 513.