Member Feedback Critical to Government Covid Response

June, 2020

By: Alan McDonald

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The past few months under COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have taken a tremendous toll on businesses, staff and New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing.

The end of the harsher lockdown conditions of Levels 4, 3 and 2 came too late for many businesses and for the tens of thousands of people who have been forced into unemployment. I feel for the many people who have lost jobs and for those employers who have closed their doors after many years in business or who have had to shed staff – in many cases regarded as friends – just to keep the doors open and survive.

As the wage subsidies start to come off we are expecting a second wave of redundancies and closures and early indications from our Adviceline suggest those closures will begin soon. In the past month we’ve seen inquiries around restructures and redundancies peak at nearly triple their usual volume settling back to about double by the end of June.

Throughout the Covid 19 crisis our Adviceline, Business Helpline and on-line Facebook and LinkedIn communities have provided an almost real time source of feedback to Government for our advocacy on behalf of members. The many calls and emails our team has received from members highlight their issues with wage subsidies, essential service classification, immigration and loan assistance scheme and we’ve been able to provide powerful case studies to various ministers and government agencies (especially Treasury, MSD, MFAT, NZTE, Immigration and MBIE)  giving them real information to help alter and tweak the Government’s response.

That feedback from members resulted in:

  • Lifting restrictions that limited hand sanitiser production to 30 litres per day lifted to 1,000 litres
  • The establishment of a national data base for PPE producers to meet demands for protective equipment
  • Changes to the initial wage subsidy scheme to open it up to more businesses
  • Changes in qualifications for the second wage subsidy scheme to make it more accessible
  • A faster than expected shift to level 1 restrictions
  • The introduction of a second loan scheme for business assistance after the complexities of the first scheme saw low take up
  • The establishment of specialist work streams to assist exporters and manufacturers with market access and solving supply chain problems

Our on-line communities were particularly helpful in giving answers to quick survey questions and individual case studies from members highlighted real world business problems and technical difficulties in the response packages that government was able to respond to and resolve.

Added to the feedback from our network colleagues – Business NZ, Business Central, Canterbury Employers and Chamber of Commerce, Otago Southland Employers Association – we created a powerful and effective voice for business.

Our role with Government in the recovery is ongoing and I want to thank all our members who shared their views and experiences. Your voice does and will continue to make a difference and that will be particularly helpful as the process towards economic recovery continues.

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