Thousands of subcontractors request early payments as building work grinds to a halt in Sydney

Sydney-construction

Source: Splash/Anthony Fomin.

Thousands of subcontractors are rushing to request early payments from contractors, as building work grinds to a two-week halt across Greater Sydney from today.

Earlytrade, a payments fintech available to 60,000 suppliers, recorded a 500% surge in demand for early payments over the weekend from subcontractors in Sydney’s construction industry who scrambled to cushion the blow of the shutdown on cashflow.

Guy Saxelby, Earlytrade chief executive and co-founder, said the platform hadn’t recorded such a large spike in payment requests from any sector since it was founded five years ago. 

“There’s a sense of fear and panic among Sydney subbies,” Saxelby said.

$1 billion a week construction halt

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian last Saturday announced further restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 Delta strain, including a two-week extension of the lockdown, shutdown of building sites, and ban on non-essential retail.

Berejiklian said all construction is required to pause and non-urgent maintenance, including cleaning services and repair work on residential premises, must cease. Details about what is considered urgent is available at this NSW government website.

The shutdown of construction work is estimated to cost Sydney between $800 million and $1 billion a week, according to Business NSW, and has renewed calls for the federal government to reinstate JobKeeper. 

Last week, the NSW government established its own JobKeeper-style payment called JobSaver.

Applications for JobSaver are scheduled to open next week and will see businesses with turnover between $75,000 and $50 million receive fortnightly payments equivalent to 40% of their weekly payroll. Payments will be capped at $10,000 per week.

To be eligible for the payments, businesses must experience a drop in revenue of at least 30% and maintain their employee headcount as at July 13.

Other support includes fortnightly micro business payments of $1500 for affected small businesses or sole traders with annual turnover between $30,000 and $75,000 payments. And, businesses can apply for the COVID-19 business grant of up to $15,000, if they are affected by the current Greater Sydney restrictions.

Individuals who lose more than 20 hours of casual work per week are entitled to $500 per week, or $325 per week if they have lost fewer than 20 hours, as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 disaster payments.

NSW backflips on definition of essential

The NSW government backflipped on its refusal to define an essential business, after reports about Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores remaining open drew criticism from retail groups and the Australian Medical Association.

From Saturday, all non-essential retail premises are now required to close, unless for click and collect, takeaway or home delivery services.

Essential retail includes a list of 11 types of businesses, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware shops.

Crackdown on non-compliant businesses

Employers who demand their workers come into the office risk fines of up to $10,000, under new rules set to kick in from Wednesday, July 21.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the new fines, saying there will be harsher penalties for any employer who forces their employee to come into the office.

“We’ve said that employees — anyone who works in an office environment — should be working from home,” Berejiklian said.

“But if your boss forces you to come into work in an office environment, your boss could be given an on-the-spot fine of $10,000.”

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