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Wesfarmers boss says Victoria's lockdown is taking toll on 30,000 Bunnings, Kmart and Target workers

Wesfarmers CEO Rob Scott has criticised Daniel Andrews’ lockdown extension and lack of consultation between the government and businesses.

The 51-year-old is the latest in a string of fed-up business owners and politicians to blast the Victorian Premier over his ‘road map’ out of COVID-19 lockdown.

Mr Scott claimed Mr Andrews’ announcement would generate more ambivalence for businesses and workers and lead to further economic turmoil across the country. 

‘I worry that this latest ­announcement creates more ­uncertainty and hardship and will inflict a greater personal and economic cost, not just to the people of Melbourne but the whole of Australia,’ Mr Scott told The Australian.

Wesfarmrs CEO Rob Scott (pictured) claimed extending lockdown would create uncertainty for businesses

Wesfarmrs CEO Rob Scott (pictured) claimed extending lockdown would create uncertainty for businesses

Wesfarmers employs about 30,000 people in Bunnings, Kmart, Officeworks and Target stores in Victoria.

Staff at those outlets are feeling the pinch as all non-essential stores in Melbourne have been forced to close or operate with minimal workers due to coronavirus restrictions. 

Mr Scott said the extension of lockdown would have an ‘enormous, incalculable and growing toll personally for many people, financially and on their emotional wellbeing, and also for the economy’.

Despite being head of one of Australia’s biggest companies, Mr Scott said he was unable to speak with the Victorian government to provide feedback to help develop their recovery strategy for businesses.

A Melbourne Bunnings warehouse employee counts the number of customers entering the store as part of the company's COVID-safe working model in May. Mr Scott said the government should have consulted with businesses to see how they have adapted to safely work during the coronavirus pandemic

A Melbourne Bunnings warehouse employee counts the number of customers entering the store as part of the company’s COVID-safe working model in May. Mr Scott said the government should have consulted with businesses to see how they have adapted to safely work during the coronavirus pandemic

Mr Scott said government and businesses must work together to ensure the safest and most productive way of restarting their trade after the pandemic. 

‘To develop a better plan would require the Victorian government to engage in genuine consultation, to listen and learn about industries that are outside their expertise, including how businesses have evolved to be COVID-safe,’ he said.

Premier Andrews on Sunday announced Melbourne will remain under coronavirus lockdown until at least October 26, with some restrictions to be eased from midnight next Sunday.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Paul Guerra said Mr Andrews’ plan was a ‘kick in the guts’ for businesses across the state. 

‘Today we have been delivered a road to nowhere,’ he said.

‘This does not deliver for the thousands of businesses that are trying to keep this state going and trying to keep their doors open.

Bunnings staff and customers practice social distancing in the store in Alexandria in March

Bunnings staff and customers practice social distancing in the store in Alexandria in March

‘We can’t continue to let business and jobs be decimated on the way to controlling the spread of the virus. This has to end. Business needs hope.’

Mr Guerra said the COVID recovery plan wasn’t good enough and would leave thousands of employees out of work. 

‘The heartbreak for members, and in fact business owners today is the realisation that many of them who have been desperately hanging on for months will see their businesses fold and they will have to look their employees in the eye and tell them that they no longer have a job,’ he said.

‘We need to get the virus under control. We are lock-step with both the federal and state governments on that aim. But we can’t just let business and jobs be sacrificed on the way.’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the lockdown extension ‘crushing news for the people of Victoria’ which will ‘come at a further economic cost’.

A Bunnings staff member wipes down the counter as part of COVID-safe measures implemented by the business in a store in Melbourne in May

A Bunnings staff member wipes down the counter as part of COVID-safe measures implemented by the business in a store in Melbourne in May

Under Mr Andrews’ road map out of lockdown, residents will have to wait until November 23 for all retail stores to reopen. 

‘We can’t run out of lockdown. We have to take steady and safe steps out of lockdown to find that COVID normal,’ Mr Andrews said on Sunday.

He stressed the importance of easing slowly into normal life to avoid a dreaded third wave. 

‘If we open up too fast then we have a very high likelihood that we are not really opening up at all,’ Mr Andrews said.

‘We would all like to open up as quickly as possible. We would all like to find that COVID normal or go back to actual normal as soon as possible.

‘But that is not the nature of this virus. It is wicked in many ways.’ 

VICTORIA’S ROADMAP OUT OF THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN – WHAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DO AND WHEN:

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced his roadmap out of the strict COVID-19 lockdown restrictions currently in place throughout Victoria

Step one: The first step will come in to place on September 13.

Step two: The second step will be implemented when Melbourne has 30-50 COVID-19 cases a day on average over the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on September 28. 

Step three: The move to step three will occur when there is a daily statewide average of five new cases over the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on October 26.

Step four: The move to step four will come when there have been no new COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on November 23

COVID Normal: After 28 days of no new COVID-19 cases, things will return to normal. 

Step one – 11.59pm on September 13:

Curfew will be eased to 9pm-5am

People can still only leave home for the four reasons (shopping, exercise, work and care or medical attention)

Public gatherings increased to two people, or a household, for a maximum of two hours

 Singles can have one nominated person to their home as part of the ‘singles social bubble’ 

Childcare and early educators to remain closed

Schools will continue to learn remotely unless they have exemptions

 Adult education to continue to be done remotely, unless they have exemption

 Only go to work if you are in a permitted industry 

– Cafes and restaurants will continue with take away only

– Retail businesses will remain open for essential shopping, with others only operating with click and collect

– Only one person per household can do the essential shopping 

Step two – September 28:

Public gatherings increase again to five people from a maximum of two households

Childcare and early educators can re-open

Schools to continue with remote learning, but Prep to Grade Two and Year 11 and Year 12 students will gradually return to class in Term 4 

 There will be an increase to permitted workplaces

Step three – October 26:

Curfew is no longer in place

There are no restrictions on leaving home

Public gatherings increase to 10 people together outdoors

 A ‘household bubble’ will be introduced, so five people from one house can visit another 

Remote learning to continue, but Grades 3 to Year 11 can gradually return to class

– Adult education to continue to be done remotely, but hands on classes will see a phased return to onsite 

 Work from home is encouraged

– Up to 10 people can eat together at restaurants and cafes, with the majority of tables outdoor

– Retail shops to reopen, with hairdresses operating under safety measures but beauty stores to remain closed

– Real estate agents can conduct private inspections by appointment

– The one person per household limit on shopping is to be revoked 

Step four – November 23:

Public gatherings to increase to 50 people outdoors

 Up to 20 visitors can attend a home at any one time

 All adult education will return to onsite with safety measures in place

– Groups limited to 20 indoors and a maximum of 50 patrons per venue

– All retail stores to reopen, while real estate agents can operate with safety measures and by keeping a record of attendants

Step five – COVID normal:

Public gatherings have no restriction

 There will also be no restriction on visitors to homes

– Phased return to onsite work for work from home workers

  Schools to reopen as normal

– Restrictions on hospitality removed, but venues to continue keeping records 

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