'Common sense': Newcastle council urges CBD businesses to 'show flexibility' to staff for Supercars

TAKE THE DAY: Newcastle City Council boss Jeremy Boss urged CBD businesses to offer flexible working arrangements ahead of Supercars. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
TAKE THE DAY: Newcastle City Council boss Jeremy Boss urged CBD businesses to offer flexible working arrangements ahead of Supercars. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

NEWCASTLE City Council has urged CBD businesses to show “common sense” by allowing employees to arrive at work late or leave early on the first day of Supercars as it will be “packed to the rafters” with the transport network under pressure.

The council’s interim chief executive, Jeremy Bath, said on Wednesday more than 30,000 people were expected to flock to the city centre next Friday.

“With 30,000 people expected to flood into the CBD for the Friday of the Supercars long weekend, fair to say the city is going to be packed to the rafters,” Mr Bath said.

“This is great news for our hospitality and retail businesses who have waited months for the promised spending spree.

“But for those businesses that offer professional services, it makes sense to show flexibility and practicality regarding their staff working in the CBD.”

The council, for its part, has encouraged non-essential staff to take the day off or work from home.

Mr Bath said many council employees had already heeded the call – with about 15 per cent of staff on annual leave next Friday.

He said more would work from home.

“Hopefully other organisations, especially the larger ones, will show similar common sense, or at the least flexibility, to allow employees to adjust their start and finish times,” Mr Bath said.

SLOW GRIND: More than 30,000 people are expected for the first day of Supercars at a time when the CBD is already choked due to light rail construction. Picture: Simone De Peak

SLOW GRIND: More than 30,000 people are expected for the first day of Supercars at a time when the CBD is already choked due to light rail construction. Picture: Simone De Peak

“The fact is our transport system will be under pressure despite Newcastle Transport having additional buses to get Supercars fans into the city. It’s simply not going to be a day for driving to work.”

Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Bob Hawes said the organisation was yet to formally advise its members and was seeking urgent information from Supercars about patronage and commuter choke points.

“We know it’s going to be very hard for people,” he said. “But whether we’re telling business to tell their employees to take the day off, we haven’t gotten that far yet.”

A spokesman for Honeysuckle-based NIB – one of the biggest employers in the city centre – said, where possible, it was offering employees flexible work arrangements, including working from home. The insurer said its customer service operations would be “business as usual”.

The transport department said there would be 300 more bus services and 90 extra trains for Supercars.