Fighting for essential services recognition

Public news

When the first wave of COVID-19 cases emerged in Australia, there was widespread uncertainty across the community and economy alike. A pandemic is something most had not experienced at the time and while Australia watched China and parts of Europe go into lockdown, the importance of maintaining critical services in the community was front and centre.

Essential services and essential workers are commonly understood to include health care workers, public utilities and law enforcement, but the importance of the automotive industry was not widely acknowledged by decision makers and the wider community early on. For this reason, MTA CEO Paul Unerkov wrote to the Prime Minister, SA Premier and NT Chief Minister in March 2020, calling for vehicle repair and its associated supply chain to be recognised as an essential service.

Later that year, in November, South Australia went into a three day lockdown and once again, it was not clear if vehicle repair and other critical sectors of the automotive industry beyond service stations would be included as essential services. Immediately after the press conference which announced the lockdown, the MTA was in direct contact with the Premier’s office providing a set of recommendations based on lockdown experiences in Victoria and overseas. This advocacy proved pivotal in vehicle repair’s last minute addition to the directions.

In late June this year, following the longest run of no lockdowns in Australia, Darwin and Alice Springs were faced with their first. The MTA was again on the front foot, working with the office of the Chief Minister to ensure that vehicle repair and other essential automotive retail activities were able to continue to operate.

South Australia’s most recent seven day lockdown was perhaps one of the most difficult for businesses, but fortunately, the MTA’s lessons learned from November and the recommendation submitted to the Government of South Australia appeared to have been broadly adopted.

While Australia has fared better than most countries around the world, the ongoing threat of increased restrictions and lockdowns remain present. Despite this, the MTA remains on the side of your business, whether it is guiding you through restrictions, helping you access government assistance or lobbying on your behalf.

To assist MTA members, we recommend that you check into our COVID portal by clicking here, where you will find the latest in Government and Bank Assistance, Workplace Relations and Trading and other Restrictions.