29/04/2020 - 15:08

Government, AHA partner for hospitality recovery

29/04/2020 - 15:08

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The state government and Australian Hotels Association have partnered to roll out a mandatory COVID-19 hygiene training course, ahead of a possible reopening of Western Australia’s hospitality venues in coming months.

Bradley Woods (pictured left, with Paul Papalia), acknowledged venues would need to implement stringent hygiene practices if they are to reopen. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The state government and Australian Hotels Association have partnered to roll out a mandatory COVID-19 hygiene training course, ahead of a possible reopening of Western Australia’s hospitality venues in coming months.

The initiative, which will require all of the state’s 70,000 hospitality workers to undertake hygiene training specific to COVID-19, will cover venue restrictions, personal health issues, as well as how to maintain proper hygiene practices during the pandemic.

The program will be divided into two components, with staff expected to complete a basic tier and managers a more advanced component on top of that.

All venues will require one manager who has completed the more advanced course to be on site at all times.

Staff will also be required to carry a badge and wallet card to prove they have undertaken the program, while venues will be provided with posters, door stickers and table talkers as a certificate of participation.

The state’s hospitality workers can access study materials for the course online immediately, while managers will be provided with materials on May 6.

However, Premier Mark McGowan stressed the state was not yet ready to reopen its hospitality venues, but said preparedness was key to any future decisions.

“We have recently relaxed some restrictions to allow Western Australians to give people more choice if they want to interact with their family and friends,” he said.

“This new mandatory course will help the sector to appropriately plan and prepare for future adjustments whereby workers and patrons alike are better protected from the virus once business is able to resume.

“This mandatory, specialised course will ensure that every single worker employed at a WA hospitality business has the skills and knowledge to protect themselves, their colleagues and their customers from COVID-19.

“WA has experienced some encouraging results of late because we’re doing all we can to combat the virus and this Government will continue to do our best in supporting the local economy as we work towards a recovery.” 

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia called the courses the first step towards the industry recovering.

“The course has been specifically developed to mitigate COVID-19 risks,” Mr Papalia said.

“It is based on the highest hygiene, food safety, cleaning and disinfecting regulations - with each venue required to have a dedicated COVID-19 hygiene officer on shift at all times.

“When the time comes, no hospitality businesses will be given approval to reopen without showing that every employee has successfully passed the course’s formal assessment.

“The Australian Hotels Association has over 20 years’ experience providing industry-specific training and is well equipped to deliver this important program.

“WA’s tens of thousands of hospitality workers can be assured that the McGowan government is absolutely focused on getting them back to work as safely and quickly as possible.”

AHA WA president Bradley Woods said he understood the role venues could play in any potential spread of the virus, and said they would take the burden of preventing that should they be allowed to reopen in the future.

“This is the first hospitality and tourism-specific COVID-19 hygiene course of its type in Australia and will put WA in a front line position for when venues reopen,” he said.

“To ensure hospitality businesses are prepared to reopen, it is important that all staff have the necessary training and knowledge to minimise the risk for staff and customers contracting COVID-19.”

“The AHA Hospitality & Tourism COVID-19 hygiene course has been specifically designed to help the sector to implement measures that will continue to reduce the risks associated with COVID-19 in respect to hygiene, cleaning and social distancing measures.”

Despite the input of the AHA, Shadow tourism minister Alyssa Hayden was critical of the course’s impact on the industry, saying small businesses would not receive any actual financial benefit from the move.

Those comments come after economic analysis by Deloitte released today showed Australia’s hospitality sector could lose around $8 billion in wages and income between April and August of this year.

"The icing on the cake for this announcement would have been the McGowan government providing financial support by cutting taxes, fees and charges to keep small and family-run businesses and tourism operators afloat so that they can make it to the other side and have doors to reopen,” Ms Hayden said.

“It’s all well and good for the state government to spend $1.8 million on a refresher course on hand washing, but many of these businesses have either been forced to close, or are hanging on by a thread and they need more than that.

“While I support this online course, the last thing we want is to add more red tape to already struggling businesses.

“I’d like to see the detail on how this will affect small businesses like restaurants, who are still operating by converting to takeaway only.

“Surely, they are already following the health guidelines as required by the state government and will not have to close before taking this mandatory course?

“There are many small and family-run businesses that have already fallen through the gaps created by the commercial tenancy legislation, utility assistance and legislation on the run, not to mention the liquor restriction misstep that targeted local small producers.

“To keep small and family-run businesses and tourism operators afloat and people in jobs during this pandemic the McGowan government needs to cut taxes, fees and charges to ease the pressure of overheads.”

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