Premier Daniel Andrews has granted Coles and Woolworths several more days to organise their workplace arrangements. Warehouses and distribution centres for medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) also have longer to implement Stage 4 restrictions due to concerns of national supply chain disruption.
Victorian warehouses and distribution centres for supermarkets and medical and PPE have been granted an extension to implement Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions from Thursday 6 August to Sunday 9 August.
The Stage 4 restrictions covering metropolitan Melbourne run from Sunday 2 August and will last for six weeks until Sunday 13 September. Andrews announced further restrictions on businesses on Monday 3 August, that were due to come into effect Thursday. However, supermarket distribution centres and medical warehouses will now have an extra two days to comply with restrictions.
From midnight on Sunday, warehouses and distribution centres must reduce workplace capacity by a third.
Both Coles and Woolworths have reported that employees have been tested as positive for COVID in the weeks leading up to Stage 4 restrictions, with a cluster of more than 20 cases at Woolworths’ Mulgrave centre and another outbreak at the Coles centre in Laverton.
Andrews said the rules on supply chain workforces were aimed at driving down the number of people working at the distribution centres.
“One of the ways that we reduce workforce, for instance, is to have a lot of product go direct from where it’s made straight into the supermarkets, rather than going through big warehouses, which mean that’s less people that need to be working, less people that need to be moving pallets around, loading and unloading trucks,” Andrews said.
“So, pop-up DCs as well. There’s all sorts of different things that the supermarket sector are doing with us, and I’m very grateful to them for it.”
Andrews said the Victorian Government has worked closely with businesses, industry groups and unions in developing the list of permitted work premises and the business operating reduction guidelines.
“We are engaging with the Government as I write to seek further clarification on these changes and are in parallel, working with our suppliers and doing all we can to minimise any disruption to the supply of meat and other products in our stores and online,” Brad Banducci, CEO of Woolworths Group said in a statement on Tuesday 4 August.
Coles announced on August 2 a temporary two pack per customer limit on mince meat, chicken breasts and chicken thighs in a bid to “ensure everyone in our community can purchase the products they need”.
Red meat processors will switch to 66 per cent, while abattoirs with 25 or fewer staff will be exempt. Poultry will maintain 80 per cent capacity to avoid birds being destroyed but not processed.
“Businesses such as metal fabricators and others in the metals supply chains have received very welcome adjustments and can now proceed with a greater degree of confidence,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said.
“We are grateful to the Victorian Government for addressing these and other concerns raised by Ai Group. We are also hopeful of making progress in the critically important logistics industry.”
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has urged the Victorian Government to continue actively engaging industry over the details of its Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions to minimise potential supply chain disruptions.
“The extension of that deadline to midnight on Sunday 9 August and the introduction of some other flexibilities will help towards minimising disruption,” said ALC CEO Kirk Coningham.
“Nonetheless, this remains a very challenging situation – and we strongly urge the Victorian Government to continue working closely with industry to make certain reliable access to everyday items beyond the supermarket and medical supply sectors can be maintained.”
Kirk said it is important to remember there are national distribution centres located in Victoria that service the requirements of retail outlets across Australia.
“These centres handle product lines that include clothing, appliances and other everyday retail items,” he said.
“The industry remains deeply concerned that the requirement to reduce staffing levels in these Victorian-based warehouses and national distribution centres to 67 per cent of daily total capacity will have a flow on impact beyond Victoria.”
Kirk said the ALC is “particularly concerned” that the proposed workforce reduction requirements for the medical and PPE sector risks the supply of critical health care items to the community.
“All parts of the freight and logistics industry are acutely aware of the need to protect public health and have worked proactively over the last five months to adhere to COVID-19 safe practices, in warehouses and in vehicles,
“But we continue to urge the Victorian Government to work with industry and adjust restrictions where necessary to ensure national distribution centres can maintain the reliable supply of goods for communities, in Victoria and across the nation.”
TRANSPORT INDUSTRY OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Peter Anderson, Victorian Transport Association CEO said the government has recognised the vital role of the transport industry so that state and national supply chain disruptions are minimised, and Victorians have uninterrupted access to fresh food, groceries, medicine and petrol.
“Premier was right to emphasise the complexity of national supply chains and that Melbourne has the biggest container port in Australia which must remain fully operational to facilitate national and international trade. He clearly gets that the nation cannot afford to shut down because of what’s happening in Victoria, as evidenced by the exemptions afforded the industry,” Peter said on Monday following the Premier’s announcement on Stage 4 restrictions to businesses.
Peter said notwithstanding the industry’s ability to work, many transport operators will experience a significant downturn.
“Clearly operators that service businesses that have been required to close or reduce their total output will be impacted to varying levels. The VTA is a tremendous resource during unprecedented times like this and is open and available to assist members and the industry during these challenging times.”
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