Industry Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

30
Mar

The Western Australian thoroughbred industry has many challenges in front of it as the state and the country move through the various stages and actions combating firstly the spread and latterly the eradication of COVID-19 from the community.

As trainers we have a responsibility to play a part in ensuring that as much as possible our industry and our people remain safe and can “keep calm and carry on!”

As the state government continue to ramp up movement and contact restrictions, the ability of our industry to continue as it needs to becomes increasingly compromised, however the actions that RWWA and each and every participant has taken to date has allowed us to stay ahead of the game and has demonstrated the responsible nature of all three racing codes in acting in the best interests of its animals, workforce and the wider community.

This has bought us some credit with government and some time.

The recently announced regional travel restrictions place another pressure point on us and RWWA is in the middle of formulating a plan to comply with same yet keep us racing to some level.

The current understanding is that key personnel required for the running of a race meeting will be exempt. Trainers and necessary personnel will be required to carry RWWA ID (passes) and present it where challenged or at check points. Further restrictions on horses travel to Kalgoorlie, Geraldton & Albany are being considered; effectively leaving the racing to horses domiciled in each area. Trainers are advised to make contingencies for horses only racing in the areas in which they are trained should this become policy. 

In the meantime there are some factors that as individuals and businesses we can observe in order to ramp up our bio security measures( which many of you have done really well to date), and management and financial considerations that may well start to take effect anytime now.

WARTA have prepared this suggestive template for trainers and their staff to reference as we proceed through this extraordinary event.

BIOSECURITY

Much has been has already been said and supplied regarding general bio security and personal hygiene and for this purpose doesn’t all have to be repeated, however specifically to the running of a stable, attending trackwork or races the following may be a useful addition.

In order to maintain a bubble around your training operation, procedures need to be in place to minimize the interaction between people either directly or indirectly, as much as is logistically possible. Trainers should consider the following:

  • Do a temperature test every morning before heading to work.  Anything 37.6 C or above should stop you and cause you to self isolate! Staff and suppliers too.
  • Try to limit vehicle travel to only those already living together, and at a pinch those working together. Travelling horses together from other stables isn’t necessarily an issue provided relative bio security measures are in place, but whenever possible people should not. This could realistically become will not. Horse transport companies will continue to operate, but drivers need to be protected and further isolated from stable staff. Therefore when travelling to races and trials staff must not go in the floats.
  • Wear disposable gloves (and dispose of properly) when handling gear and equipment supplied or used by others. If you can get hold of some alcohol (for cleaning!) drenched wipes, carry them and use them on gear, reins, etc. at trackwork, races or wherever.
  • When fueling vehicles, try to use the same supplier as much as possible, preferably one that has a self-pay function and always wear gloves before thoroughly washing or sterilising hands. It’s imperative that you limit this sort of interaction as much as is viable to your home region.
  • Avoid using roadhouse/ service centre toilets, amenities as much as is practical and attempt to carry all the food and drink you may require, whilst on the road.
  • Observe the govt. sanctioned 2 metre rule and density regulations at all times both at work and at the races etc. and ensure staff are diligent in this matter as well. Look at ways of going about the daily routine that still allows this to occur and keep improving it.
  • Cease using cash for any transactions at anytime.
  • Visitors to your stables should be limited to staff and suppliers only. Personal hygiene measures on arrival should be observed. Owners or others not integral to the running of the stable are not permitted under the current protocols. RWWA has an expectation that these will be strictly adhered to.
  • DO NOT attempt to attend a racecourse if you are unwell, have a fever or have been in contact with a known or suspected COVID-19 carrier, or any person who has entered the state in the previous 14 days. WARTA has an agreement with RWWA that should a horse need to be scratched late from a race under these circumstances, that it can be done so without penalty.

MANAGERIAL

As the state pushes further toward some sort of or complete lockdown the implications for training and racing are immense.

Trainers should be preparing for a period of inactivity at some point. Unfortunately no one including the state government or RWWA knows when or for how long this might occur and clearly the earlier this occurs, the longer it will be.

As much as our business and lives will be affected, so too will be those of our employees and our suppliers. In making preparations for a lockdown, trainers need to understand their obligations around permanent staff, casuals and also need to make arrangements with suppliers for continued service and supply or suspension of same.

The Australian Trainer’s Association has produced a handy guide to the rights and obligations to staff under the “Horse and Greyhound Training Award”. The award can be googled and the info sheet will be in part reproduced at the end of this document. Some points for trainers to consider as follows:

  • Discuss the implications of what is happening to your training business with staff, job losses at this stage look inevitable so make sure your people are aware of the reality and what you plan to do to help them through, if you can.
  • Casual staff, freelance riders and strappers do not have the same entitlements as permanents, but are the backbone of many training business and need to be helped as much as possible. Insist that should they feel ill that they DO NOT, under any circumstances come to work. Arranging a way to pay them in the short term and them squaring up later, would not be a bad way to return the faith.
  • Job losses through this crisis will entitle people to immediate federal government assistance. Make sure your people know they can access these services via Centrelink. If you are in a position to redeploy people in full or part time roles have your accountant or financial adviser provide information and guidance on what sort of assistance your business may be eligible for……..and apply!
  • Horses will still be needing care, and possibly even training in which case business might nearly be as usual. RWWA is aware of some of the financial ramifications for trainers, the income loss vs the obligation to care for stock and WARTA will be working with them to ensure we can meet our welfare obligations firstly, and then have horses fit and ready to go when we look like coming out the other side. All trainers are advised to plan to have horses on hold for some period and that transporting options may become limited in the event of a state wide movement ban. Planning for a worst case scenario is advised, if you never use it, great!      Like a bushfire plan.

Financial

WARTA is not sufficiently qualified to provide financial advice but your accountant is, and so is ours. Shannon Coleman from Verto Consulting is this association’s accountant and has provided you with a summary of the financial packages and stimulus that are available to businesses.

You are advised to consider the following documents and have your adviser look into the options that will be available to you in the event of a total shut down of racing and possibly training. WARTA has supported RWWA’s stance on condensing thoroughbred racing into a manageable streamlined model through this crisis. Knowing that this is going to have a heavy impact on all trainers, and some more than others weighs heavily. However for the greater good of the industry and the wider community there appears to be few better alternatives.

As such Trevor and the WARTA committee want you to stay safe and healthy and ask that you do whatever is possible within your own organisation to contribute to the successful negotiation of this most trying of circumstance. Please take the time to read the following summaries and feel free to contact this office with any queries.

Warwick Bradshaw
Executive officer