Throughout this global pandemic, FTMA Australia has provided members, and at times, non-members with the latest up to date information on restrictions and lockdowns and sometimes, if we don’t laugh, we’d just cry.

The last ‘Circuit Breaker Lockdown’ in Victoria is the perfect example of how difficult things are when effective government communication fails.  To give you a better understanding, I’d like to take you through what was involved with updating members in Victoria in the first few days of the lockdown.

Friday 12th February


Both Nikita and I were confident the Premier would be announcing a 5-day snap lockdown so prepared the COVID-19 Newsletter ready to send after the Premiers announcement. We knew masks would be back and that we would have another lockdown but never thought we’d be included.


Premier makes announcement and states that “….if you were a permitted worker during Stage 4 restrictions – you’ll most likely be an essential worker now too.  For everyone else, we need you to work from home”


Due to lack of information from the Victorian Government, FTMA contacted CFMEU, Government and Industry Associations to double check our interpretation was correct and fabricators could remain open.


FTMA sent all Victorian Fabricators (members and non-members) along with supplier members an Emergency COVID-19 Update outlining the new rules regarding masks, the 5kms rule was back and we were to continue working.  We informed everyone that once the information was online from Government, we would send it around.


Government finally uploaded the new set of rules outlining who was regarded as essential.  There was no mention of construction or our sector. FTMA once again began contacting other industry Associations, government hotline and CFMEU to seek clarification on the rules and our interpretation.


After confirming we were all on the same page, we sent out an update to members with the Government list of essential workers.  We explained that even though construction was not mentioned, all had agreed that if we were open in the past we would be open now as per the above comment by the Premier in his press conference.


Phone began to run hot with members calling saying their builders were unsure and that some were thinking they had to close.  The confusion and stress grew with every call.  FTMA continued to liaise with unions, industry, and government for the next hour.


We finally got an answer that construction and manufacturing are included in the Circuit Breaker Five Day Lockdown and we were to shut down.

We assured members; we would continue to search for documentation from the Government to confirm but at this stage we were definitely all to close. This is 4.10pm on a Friday when most workers had already gone home.


Given the stand-down, FTMA sent members fact sheets on how to stand down employees and what they were entitled to given it was a government directive.

Friday evening

Members and non-members, including employees of some members, called throughout Friday evening. People were confused and concerned about the impact on their employees and wanted to talk.

During this time, I was hosting a Chinese New Years Eve party with 15 dinner guests I was cooking for. So, with headset on, I cooked at the wok, whilst reassuring members of the rules.

Saturday 13th February


First call came through from a member trying to see if we fitted in to one of the essential categories.  People were grasping at straws as they were shocked that after a year and months of lockdowns, we were now considered non-essential.

Depending on how many calls I receive on an issue, is how I determine whether to send an email or update to all relevant members. 


The calls continued and after a dozen calls, I thought it was important to update members to confirm 100% that we they were closed until the following Thursday.

Sunday 14th February


Whilst decided to have a relaxing day in the spa to unwind, I picked up phone to change music and saw an email from Michael O’Conner from the CFMEU explaining that overnight, the Victorian Government had updated what they deemed essential and now, fabricators were once again essential and were to open.


Spent an hour on the phone to the COVID-19 hotline to confirm the news from Michael and confirm details around delivering to closed down building sites etc.


We sent an email to all Victorian FTMA Members, Non-Members, and Suppliers to inform them that we were now essential and could open even though building was still closed.

Sunday arvo

Calls continued from members and non-members seeking confirmation on the details I sent and asking questions on how to contact employees etc.

Monday 15th February


First call of many came in from members again wanting to talk about the situation and ask what the implications would be if they chose to stay closed until the Thursday.


Checked in with our industrial relations experts at TTIA to confirm details around employees’ wages given we were now essential.


After several more calls from members, we sent an update to members outlining their responsibilities with regards to employee wages and stand down now we were essential.

As you can see, this was an absolute nightmare and caused huge stress which could have been avoided, if there was effective Government communication at the start. We understand that all governments are under pressure, however, they need to stop changing the goal posts every time there is an outbreak.

Other articles in this edition of FTMA News outline the importance of communication. This shows the unnecessary nightmare that occurs without effective communication.

It’s a fine line between sending you the right information or overloading you and FTMA gives real consideration on this before sending any updates as the last thing we want to do is confuse you.

However, in this instance, it was clear by the dozens of phone calls that updates were required and we hope that members felt confident with the information FTMA provided.

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