Coronavirus update for business: Joyce takes a pay cut, still waiting on a stimulus, and who’s going to work sick?

Alan Joyce

Qantas chief Alan Joyce.

Still no stimulus

Although the package was expected to be released today, the business world is still unclear on what the government’s coronavirus stimulus response will look like.

The government has pledged a $2.4 billion medical package, including funds for pop-up fever clinics and e-health services, but it’s unclear whether the business package will be similarly sized.

You can read what SME owners want from the package here, and what the SmartCompany Brains Trust has to say about it here.

At the same time, the economy is starting to suffer. The ASX 200 plunged this morning, losing 1.3% off the index within the first 40 minutes of trading, Business Insider reports.

Joyce puts his money where his mouth is

As Qantas has cut almost a quarter of its flights, and put some 2,000 jobs in jeopardy, chief executive Alan Joyce has opted out of his salary for the remainder of the financial year, as well as any bonus — a figure that amounts to about $3.3 million.

The move follows a sharp downturn in booking for the airline, which is also widely expected to have a knock-on effect on Australia’s already struggling tourism industry.

Joyce has said the business is trying to avoid redundancies, with his own wage cut, and several other executives taking a 30% salary cut, intended to help bridge the gap.

Our friends at Crikey have taken a look at what a few other corporate bigwigs could do for their companies — and potentially their employees — if they followed suit.

Not-so-personal leave

Business NSW has reportedly advised employers that personal or carer’s leave should not be offered to either full-time or part-time workers who have taken time off but have not yet been diagnosed with the virus.

To qualify for personal leave, the employee must be unable to work, and this does not apply to self-quarantining, the advice says.

This comes at the same time as a warning from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) that casual workers — even those experiencing symptoms — are likely to go to work sick in order to avoid any loss of earnings.

“The grim reality is that if these workers become ill they will either attend work sick, be stood down by their employer without pay, or potentially be subject to self-isolation regimes imposed by the Morrison government, again without means to pay their bills,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.

Dollars for a rainy day

And, in related news, Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter has helpfully chimed in to suggest that casual workers are not likely to suffer at all. Because they receive a higher hourly rate of pay, they’ve likely already made provisions for a global pandemic, he said. Because, that seems reasonable.

“Many people would have already made provisions … because of course the purpose of casual employment is that you’re paid extra in-lieu of the types of entitlements,” Porter reportedly said.

“We’re not going to jump to a solution in anticipation of a problem that is broad before that problem has arisen or we reasonably know that it will arise.”

Of course, this hasn’t gone down all too well on Twitter, where people have called the Attorney-General out of touch, and compared his comments to Marie Antoinette’s infamous “let them eat cake”. And, those are the polite tweets.

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