Pressure on government to require public sector workers back in offices

By Jackson Graham

Monday October 25, 2021

Victorians could live further away from their workplaces
Victorians could live further away from their workplaces. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Pressure is on the Victorian government to mandate public service workers return to offices as Melbourne winds back its lockdown and prepares to open further.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Sunday that most restrictions — including work-from-home recommendations and mask-wearing in offices — would ease once Victoria reached its 90% double-dose target, expected for November 24. 

Responding to the timeframe, the Property Council’s Victorian executive director, Danni Hunter, said the lobby group wanted a full return to the office to revitalise Melbourne’s central business district. 

“We now call on the state government to take a leadership role and mandate a return to office for public sector workers who have not returned to office since the pandemic started,” Hunter said. 

Melbourne office occupancy levels in September were at just 6% of pre-COVID levels, according to a Property Council survey, with longer-term data showing occupancy levels have stayed below 50% of pre-COVID levels since the pandemic began. 

“We want to see the state government shift its focus to revitalising our central city economy and partner with business and the City of Melbourne to turn Melbourne from a ghost town into the world’s most liveable city once again,” Hunter said. 

Andrews said there was widespread acknowledgement across the government and health department that once the state reached 90% “people have done everything we asked them to do”. 

“We are not going to get much more protected than that,” he said, adding that every dose after 90% still mattered. “Wherever we end up, all of those jabs make a difference.” 

When the target is reached on November 24, masks will only be required in high-risk indoor settings, such as public transport, prisons, aged care facilities and hospitals. 

The government will also continue its vaccination requirements for people to have many of the returned freedoms, such as entering shops and cafes and working in many industries. 

“Masks in some settings, principally indoors … and the economy being open to you only if you have had two shots, only if you are fully vaccinated — they are the two rules that will be enduring, they are the few rules that will be with us right through 2022,” Andrews said.  


Human rights and lockdown challenges in Melbourne

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