Australian companies announce swathe of layoffs
Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney
Australian companies announced a swathe of layoffs on Wednesday with Virgin Australia and clothing retailer Mosaic brands announcing the standing down of almost 15,000 workers.
The layoffs, which both companies said were temporary measures to cope with the coronavirus crisis, follow a further clamp down on businesses and the movement of people set to take effect from midnight.
Under the new measures beauty parlours, casinos, gyms and a range of other venues will close and barbecues or other social gatherings with more than 10 people have been banned.
Canberra is also banning Australians from travelling abroad, as the number of coronavirus cases tops 2,000, more than double the number just three days earlier. However, schools in most states remain open – a controversial decision that has prompted criticism from some health experts, who have recommended implementing some of the tougher measures seen in Europe.
Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, said it was not credible to put in place measures for a few weeks and suddenly stop them.
“So we are very keen to put as restrictive measures in place without completely destroying life as we know it.”
Virgin said it would begin grounding 125 aircraft from and standing down 80 per cent of its 10,000 workers until at least May in response to the extraordinary situation. Mosaic Brands, which owns several retailers such as Noni B, said it would close all its stores and stand down staff due to a substantial drop in foot traffic due to social distancing rules.
The swathe of job losses across the economy has put intense pressure on social welfare services, with long lines of people queueing up outside unemployment offices and its main website crashing because of the deluge of claims.
Westpac economists forecast the jobless rate in Australia will rise from 5 per cent to 11.1 per cent by the end of June, with more than 800,000 jobs losses in the second quarter.