Ballarat hospitality businesses have reacted with fury at the state government's sudden change to a key vaccination date and its subsequent refusal to budge.
Commerce Ballarat received communication late Tuesday outlining Premier Daniel Andrews had advised all hospitality workers must be double-vaccinated by Friday to work. The premier had briefly addressed the matter in Tuesday's media conference.
"The number of patrons that are allowed in the easing that we have done is predicated on people being double-dose vaccinated," Mr Andrews said.
"I don't think that anyone would find fault with the logic that says, if I must be double-dosed to sit down and order a beer or a glass of wine, then the person who serves me needs to be double-dosed as well."
The hospitality industry had been of the understanding staff needed to have their first dose by October 15 and their second dose by November 26 in accordance with the vaccine mandate announced on October 1.
Conflicting information in a letter from the Department of Justice and Community Safety received by the Australian Hotels Association on Tuesday morning merely added to the confusion.
"The fully vaccinated requirement only applies to patrons," the letter said.
"Staff have until November 26 to become fully vaccinated."
Commerce Ballarat CEO Jodie Gillett is perplexed at the turn of events.
"Just when you think they can't stuff things up again, (they do)," Ms Gillett said.
"This is just unbelievable."
It's not possible for them to abide by this rule at this point. We really need the government to find a way for them to be able to trade on Friday.Jodie Gillett
Australian Hotels Association Victoria president David Canny remains flabbergasted.
"We think (there has been a mistake) and certainly miscommunication between departments," Mr Canny said.
"They need to get their act together."
Ms Gillett is at her wits' end.
"As of Tuesday night, the state government websites still had 'second dose by November 26'," she said.
"And then, when you went on the websites at 9pm Tuesday, they had banners saying, 'This site is being updated'."
Mr Canny holds the government accountable for the calamity.
"The government didn't come out with that plan," he said.
"It's hard for us to tell (staff) to get vaccinated, and have your double-dose by this week, when the government hadn't mandated that."
The nature of the hospitality workforce is making the situation even more challenging, according to Ms Gillett.
"So many of these (venues) have a young cohort of staff who weren't eligible to get vaccinated until quite recently," Ms Gillett said.
"I have spoken to lots whose staff did the right thing and went out and got Astra Zeneca as soon as they could so they can't have their second dose for another three or four weeks."
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While Ms Gillett understands the desire for hospitality staff to be double-vaccinated, the sudden change in regulations lacks consideration.
"Customers have to be double-vaxxed to go into a venue on Friday (so) it does make sense that the staff are the same, but they should have made that call two months ago," Ms Gillett said.
"They need to change it (so) that people have to be able to prove they have their second dose appointment confirmed."
Mr Canny backs the vaccination campaign in general, but cannot agree to the rapid change.
"Had we known, we would have fully supported it," he said.
"We got official notification yesterday morning that hospitality would be fine. Then, with amazement, we watched the press conference where the premier said fully vaccinated by this Friday. Everyone started scrambling."
I've never seen a more angry industry.David Canny
Ms Gillett continues to be enormously frustrated.
"Our businesses don't want to check vaccination passports, but they're willing to do that to open and to help keep the community safe," she said.
"It's not possible for them to abide by this rule at this point. We really need the government to find a way for them to be able to trade on Friday."
Mr Canny feels for those in the field.
"Why (members) are so angry is that, had they known a month ago that this was going to be the case, then we would have supported that," he said.
The influential figure is deeply concerned for his members.
"This is just cruel what they're doing to staff in hospitality," Mr Canny said.
"Not only have they gone through eight lockdowns and restarts, but they do this to them, they put this burden on them. You can work in a hospital this weekend, but you can't pull a beer or wash dishes. Where is the logic in that?"
The ramifications of this latest blow will be immense, according to Mr Canny.
"Some regional pubs (are) saying they're actually going to shut down," he said.
"One operator hasn't got the chefs. I've never seen a more angry industry."
When contacted, a government spokesperson reiterated the importance of vaccinations and emphasised the requirements of hospitality workers.
"Hospitality workers will need to be fully vaccinated before they can return to work on October 22," the spokesperson said.
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