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Sport and recreation giant stands down entire workforces without pay

Belgravia Leisure operates Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre and Victoria Park Pool.

As NSW residents face another lockdown, entire workforces employed by Belgravia Leisure have been stood down without pay.

Belgravia Leisure operates over 150 sport and recreation facilities across the country, including Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre in Marrickville and Victoria Park Pool in Camperdown.

Staff were informed of the decision last week when the lockdown was announced. They were directed to apply for the COVID-19 disaster payment, while permanent and part-time staff were told to use their annual leave.

However, many staff aren’t eligible for government support or entitled to annual leave, leaving them without income for the duration of lockdown.

“Two weeks without income is a very long time,” one worker said. 

“I don’t know how they expect us to survive when we have to pay for rent, food, groceries, mortgages and other expenses.”

“That’s assuming that lockdown is only going to last two weeks, which is uncertain since cases aren’t going down.”

Another staff member said that workers employed by Belgravia Leisure — who include migrant workers, international students, and older workers — were already battling insecure hours and “very low pay” before being stood down.

Company ‘can afford to provide proper pandemic pay’

Members of the United Workers Union (UWU) are fighting back against the decision, demanding that Belgravia Leisure pay staff for their regular hours during the lockdown period.

In a petition that has gained over 650 signatures, the union said: “While it is important that the centres close to ensure the safety of the community, workers should not have to pay for the lockdown.”

They noted that Belgravia Leisure can afford to provide pandemic pay, given that it boasts around $2 billion in assets and hundreds of millions in profit, while its Chief Executive Officer Geoff Lord features in Australia’s Richest 200 List.

“When you know how much they make and how much they’re worth, it’s a slap in the face when they say there’s nothing they can do about it,” another staff member said. 

”It just makes you feel like they don’t care.”

Disaster payment ‘not enough to cover basic needs’

Workers have also condemned the federal government for failing to provide adequate support.

The JobKeeper scheme, which provided $750 per week, ended back in March and the government has resisted calls to bring it back even as snap lockdowns continue.

While some workers are able to access a weekly disaster payment of $325-$500, the UWU says this amount “is not enough to cover basic needs.”

Additionally, stringent eligibility criteria have locked out many workers from accessing the payment. Those who have more than $10,000 in “liquid assets” such as savings in the bank, or receive an income support payment such as Youth Allowance are ineligible for the payment.

“The fact that the federal government is not willing to give out JobKeeper to cover all workers in the lockdown like last time is a disgrace,” one staff member said.

Senior management of Belgravia Leisure will be meeting with members of the UWU on Monday to discuss workers’ demands.