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Unions and employers appeal for funeral operations to continue

March 27, 2020

The Australian Workers’ Union and Australia’s largest funeral operator have developed a national action plan that will protect jobs for hundreds of workers, despite the restrictions placed on funerals due to the COVID-19 response.

It was feared that restricting funerals to just ten people would leave to significant job losses due to the need for more simple and less labour intensive funeral services.

But after an intense two days of negotiations between InvoCare and the AWU, a proposal has been overwhelmingly approved by members that will maintain financial security for its employees and our members. There will be no reduction in head count at this time and no financial impact on permanent employees who will continue to receive the same weekly pay.

At the same time a joint statement from the AWU and the Australian Funeral Directors Association is calling for the funeral services and ancillary industries to be assured essential status and allowed to continue operating in the event of more stringent lockdowns.

“This deal represents an excellent example of the middle ground that can be achieved when employers and employees work together at this time of crisis,” said AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton.

“There is pain here undoubtedly. But parties have come together to ensure it is mitigated and evenly distributed. There will likely be reductions in hours for some casuals, but crucially no one will lose their job.

“We now need the government to come to the party and ensure that this vital industry is deemed essential and allowed to continue, albeit with the necessary hygiene and social distancing measures in place.

“The funeral industry will be hit hard by COVID-19, but if the spirit of cooperation continues we can ensure this industry continues its vital work both during the crisis and on the other side.”

The proposal’s outline:

• Full time employees will take one day each week of annual or long service leave for five weeks
• Part time employees will do so at a pro-rata rate of 20 per cent of time worked
• Leave already booked will count towards the total
• Those without leave can use recreational days (where they apply) and go into negative leave
• Exemptions are in place for crucial roles

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