'Cruel': Thousands sign petition demanding payouts for live events workers amid Omicron restrictions

A petition demanding the Government provide support payments for those working in the live entertainment industry amid Aotearoa's COVID-19 Omicron outbreak has reached over 5000 signatures. 

The Change.org petition started by the 'NZ Music Industry' is warning the red setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework could see "the decimation of many livelihoods". 

New Zealand's nationwide return to red means no events with more than 100 people in a defined space can take place, prompting a wave of cancellations. 

The petition said the move "has left thousands of Kiwis who work in the live events and adjacent industries completely without work for the foreseeable future". 

It noted that during previous pandemic alert levels, Kiwis had access to wage subsidies and resurgence payments; but this time, no such support has been made available "despite some industries being totally unable to operate". 

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced there would be financial support provided for those who aren't able to work because they have contracted COVID-19 or need to isolate due to being a contact or waiting for test results. The Leave Support Scheme, available to employers and self-employed people to help pay their workers, did not appear to make provisions for those unaffected by the virus who were still out of work. 

"After an already brutal 2021 for the music and live events industry especially, being left without work again in 2022 could see the decimation of many livelihoods," the petition continued.

"By signing this petition you support the case of assistance for the workers and businesses who have worked so hard to keep these industries afloat. Thank you." 

At the time of writing, the petition had earned over 5800 signatures, with more names appearing by the minute. Those who signed cited a range of reasons, including being musicians or entertainers left unemployed, having family or friends in the live events industry and being concerned about how restrictions might impact Aotearoa's cultural landscape. 

"It's criminal to take away people's income and prevent them from working without compensating them," one person wrote. 

"I'm a worker in the live events industry and haven't had any work since July due to gig cancellations because of Covid restrictions," said another. 

"Performing artists and businesses play a huge role in the culture and growth of New Zealand," one comment read. 

Perhaps referring to National MP Chris Bishop's jab at Kiwi drum and bass fans while speaking about vaccination passes in September, the message continued: "Their income is taken away and the government is systematically destroying people's lives through lack of understanding and compassion while they joke about their lives at press conferences." 

"People also rely on these artists for their mental health and to escape the humdrum society. There will be an ongoing ripple effect for years." 

Another signee challenged decision makers in power to "try to get through your next lockdown or self-isolation period without listening to any music, consuming any form of entertainment, or binging up on Netflix".

"Take notice of how much entertainment fills your days, and picture removing all of that. Things go awfully quiet. The cancellation of large-scale events make the headlines, but it's all the hard working and passionate people in the industry that dedicate their lives in bringing that entertainment to you that need support."