22k jobs at stake: RSL clubs face Anzac Day devastation
STRUGGLING RSL clubs face a major battle to re-open post-pandemic after many shut their doors and thousands of workers were stood down - but Queensland venues are determined to survive.
RSL & Services Clubs Association Qld estimates most of the industry's 22,000-strong workforce has been stood down amid the coronavirus pandemic.
For many of the clubs, Anzac Day is the busiest day of the year, bringing thousands of people through the doors - a loss of revenue that is potentially devastating.
Veterans face losing a key part of social gathering during Anzac Day commemorations in what the RSL & Services Clubs Association has deemed a "huge loss to the community" - making it vital for many clubs as possible to get back on their feet.
With many elderly veterans forced into isolation, RSLSCA Qld says the disruption is causing untold damage to employees and members, especially to their mental wellbeing.
"Clubs are like families … the current situation is devastating for clubs on many fronts - most staff have had to be stood down as most have closed and have zero income," RSLSCA Qld chief executive Penny Wilson said.
"Unfortunately, there could be a few RSL Clubs that are going to struggle to open their doors, post COVID-19, but they are a resilient group of clubs and as long as the State Government waives the March gaming tax, most of them should survive this crisis and be there next year for the Anzac Day commemoration.
"The local community has been hit because clubs are now unable to provide financial and in kind benefits to charities and community groups as they normally do."
About 40 RSL sub branches of the 230 in Queensland set up to support veterans are affiliated with commercial RSL clubs, and 17 of those operate their associated club.
Ms Wilson said about 22,000 people were employed by the club industry, with most of them either now stood down or lost their jobs.
"We are very concerned about the future of clubs with this crisis - we still have very high overheads that need to be met and with zero income, obviously this presents enormous problems," Ms Wilson said.
The association has called on the government to waive the March Gaming Tax as the Northern Territory government did, in a bid to help clubs reopen when they are able.
Almost 100 staff lost their jobs from Redlands RSL Club in late March as the club closed its doors for the first time in 95 years.
General manager Peter Harrison said the significant revenue loss from the club's biggest day of the year - Anzac Day - would have been yet another blow.
RSL District President North Brisbane Merv Brown was optimistic clubs and sub-branches would survive.
"Personally, I can see they will all survive,'' he said.
"I know State RSL are looking at supporting all their traditional sub-branches and trying desperately to put things in place to support them and help them through this stage that we're in.''
Originally published as 22k jobs at stake: RSL clubs face Anzac Day devastation