The MEAA is championing for arts employers to keep workers on the payroll through COVID-19.

Keep arts workers on the payroll, not welfare, union says

March 26, 2020 BY

THE Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) says employers in the sector must sensibly ration government support to keep their staff working through the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday this week, alliance representatives said they were concerned that the weekend’s economic stimulus package placed “no obligations” on businesses to use benefits to boost cashflow and employ their workforce.

MEAA chief executive officer Paul Murphy called on employers to consider innovative ways to ensure job security for workers rather than pushing them onto Centrelink’s JobSeeker Payment (previously Newstart Allowance).

“We are concerned that no conditions requiring employers to keep workers in jobs have been attached to the money set to flow to businesses,” he said.

“The overriding objective must be to keep people in work, not push them onto the welfare system. All businesses that are receiving government support must do all they can to ensure that the money is used to keep people on the payroll.

“Given the lack of conditions attached by the government to business cashflow payments, MEAA is putting all employers in the arts and entertainment sectors on notice that we will be watching them very closely to ensure that money coming their way is used to keep people in jobs.”

He said employers had a “moral obligation” to keep people in the workforce and this message needed to be conveyed by the government to avoid a “mass exodus” of workers from media, entertainment and arts industries.

“The obligation of businesses to keep people in work needs to include freelancers and contractors, who make up a large part of the workforce in most theatrical and screen productions.

“The simple fact is that if producers want these professionals to be available for work in the future once the crisis is over, they need to be looking after them as well as their employees on salaries and wages.”

The MEAA is working alongside its industry bodies, including Live Performance Australia and Screen Producers Australia, to obtain a “rescue package” for the arts from the federal government.