Outspoken CEO Jim Penman has again lashed out at Daniel Andrews over coronavirus response.
Outspoken CEO Jim Penman has again lashed out at Daniel Andrews over coronavirus response.

Jim’s Mowing boss’ brutal attack

Jim's Mowing boss Jim Penman is demanding an "urgent meeting" with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, claiming he was leaving small business owners "facing financial ruin".

Last week, Mr Andrews said cleaners and gardeners would be prevented from working under Victoria's tough new coronavirus rules - but at the time, Mr Penman claimed his comments contradicted the government's own official guidelines on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

As a result, Mr Penman argued that his franchisees would not be breaking the law if they kept working during the lockdown, offering to pay for any fines that may be issued and urging Mr Andrews to clarify his stance.

He later doubled down on his comments in a scathing open letter addressed to Mr Andrews - although the Victorian leader downplayed the message during last Sunday's press conference, telling reporters if he agreed to the terms included in every letter he received, there would be more Victorians working in August that during the previous month, before the outbreak worsened.

Now, the franchise king is demanding to meet with him via Zoom to discuss the escalating situation.

"While you are reading this letter, sole business operators are facing financial ruin, unable to put food on the table for their families, unable to meet the cost of their mortgage, unable to pay for heating, and unable to pay medical bills. They cannot go on. We need urgent action to get them back to work," Mr Penman wrote in his latest letter.

"You have, by changes to stage 4 restrictions, made it illegal for solo business operators to work. Despite this, council workers, government contractors and others are continuing to work in groups on road works, in parks, on nature strips and across other facilities and public spaces.

"I have been swamped with pleas from mum and dad business operators across the state, desperate for help because you will not listen."

Jim Penman has stepped up his attack against Mr Andrews. Picture: Jason Edwards
Jim Penman has stepped up his attack against Mr Andrews. Picture: Jason Edwards

Mr Penman claimed Mr Andrews had made exemptions for "major corporations" or those with "powerful unions" while preventing sole operators from working, and argued the Department of Health and Human Services released stage 4 guidelines "only a few days ago" that stated sole operators could continue to work where COVID safe measures were implemented.

"Are you suggesting your own department got it wrong, and if so why? Or has new information come to light to show they were wrong. If so, then what is it? Can you name a single person who has infected or been infected while working alone on a site?" he asked.

"Why is it that council workers in groups can do jobs, while self-employed people working alone cannot?

"This is not just about gardeners. I speak for many including cleaners, pool cleaners, maintenance workers, handy people, fencers, window cleaners, painters, concreters and more."

Mr Penman said the state needed a plan to get "mum and dad businesses" back to work "before they lose their homes, their health, their families and their future".

"They do not have a voice. They do not belong to unions or own corporations. They have been cast aside and left in despair by your callous and unthinking actions, and they urgently need help to survive," he wrote.

He proposed that the Premier allow people to work based on the initial guidelines as long as they are alone on a site, maintain a five-metre distance with customers and accept electronic payment.

"As a matter of urgency, we must work together to help those in need. Now is not the time for pride, politically correct responses, spin, evasive answers, or sticking to bad decisions," Mr Penman continued.

"We must act swiftly, with compassion and humility. You have made other mistakes that cannot be fixed, but this one you can. Please, be prepared to admit it and move on.

"Tens of thousands of vulnerable people depend on you to put things right."

Originally published as Jim's Mowing boss' brutal attack

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