Venues offer helping hand to employees on working visas

There are growing calls for the Federal Government to support migrant workers in Australia’s hospitality sector who are now jobless and ineligible for JobKeeper or JobSeeker assistance.

There are around 840,000 temporary visa holders with working rights in Australia, with a large proportion of them employed in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

The fear is that international working visa holders will be forced to return home, leaving many restaurants unable to find staff when restrictions eventually lift.

However, some venues are taking matters into their own hands, by supporting their working visa staff in any way they can.

National pub group Australian Venue Co. will spend $2 million on initiatives developed to support its working visa employees.

Employees on sponsored visas will be paid $550 a week for the duration that they are stood down after leave entitlements have been exhausted.

For those on temporary visas, including students and working holidayers, an initial $100,000 hardship fund has now been extended to $300,000 due to demand.

A $150,000 fund has also been set aside to cover the cost of preparing 50,000 meals for any employees in need, with over 1,100 meals collected each week so far.

“At Australian Venue Co., we want to do our best to support our employees during this time of uncertainty,” said CEO Paul Waterson.

“We believe that, although the hospitality industry is suffering at the moment, those who can support their staff and the wider hospitality industry should and are doing what they can.

“The last couple of months have been catastrophic for the hospitality industry but we are proud to be part of an industry which has proved itself to be resilient, supportive and as hard working as ever at this difficult time. We will do everything we can to support it now, and when we enter the pathway to recovery.”

Renowned Melbourne restaurant Attica is also taking matters into its own hands, making meals for those international workers who have no means of making money. Around half of Attica’s staff are visa workers, according to chef Ben Shewry.

“They were invited here,” he told the ABC. “They were allowed here or welcomed here and now when things got a little bit tough it feels like we’re turning our backs on them. That doesn’t feel very Australian to me.”

Attica is still currently fully staffed for its takeaway service, with $5 from each order diverted to its Soup Project, which offers free soup and freshly made bread to international workers who have lost their jobs.