Jim's Mowing founder to fight Victorian government for 'unfair' loss of income during lockdown

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The founder of Jim’s Mowing has backed one of his franchisees in a compensation claim against the Victorian government for having banned the garden workers from doing their jobs during last year’ s lockdown.

For over 100 days during Melbourne’s strict Stage Four coronavirus lockdown, residents were banned from hiring someone to mow their lawn or clean their house. 

Jim Penman, the founder of Jim’s Group which has 3,800 franchisees, has claimed each of his 615 gardening contractors lost $3000 a week for two months – adding up to over $15 million. 

One of those franchisees, 47-year-old Steve Thompson, will file a compensation claim against the Department of Health and Human Services in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Should the action be successful, Mr Penman said it would ‘open the floodgates’ for not only his franchisees but other affected small businesses who lost revenue due to the lockdowns to take their own legal action. 

‘After Steve’s case is heard I will be telling all of my franchisees and sole operators to make a claim for compensation … we’re talking about millions-of-dollars – this is a heavy claim against the government,’ Mr Penman said. 

Jim Penman, founder of Jim's Mowing, has launched court action against the Victorian government for loss of income during the 111-day lockdown

Jim Penman, founder of Jim’s Mowing, has launched court action against the Victorian government for loss of income during the 111-day lockdown

Mr Penman has provided legal representation for Mr Thompson, who lost more than $24,000 during the lockdown last year, news.com.au reported. 

Mr Thompson will argue his business could have continued to operate without any risk of transmitting the virus because he was a sole trader and worked ‘outside only’. 

Pictured: Jim's Mowing franchisee Steve Thompson

Pictured: Jim’s Mowing franchisee Steve Thompson

‘It was the worst year of my entire life going through lockdown,’ the Doreen resident told NCA NewsWire. 

The franchisee said he was unfairly put out of work for nearly two months, the financial stress causing him to separate from his wife and sell their house. 

‘This (compensation case) is for the sole traders who work by themselves outside in the fresh air, there was no contact with the public, that’s the key issue here.’

Jim’s Mowing franchisees and employees were ordered to put down their tools from August 2 of last year, after lawn mowing and gardening were included in a list of industries told to cease trade under public health orders. 

Despite the ban on his franchisees, council operated grass cutters were allowed to work, an apparent double-standard Mr Penman said he ‘could not comprehend’. 

He has warned the Victorian government that Mr Thompson’s claim is just one of 615, estimating his contractors lost $3000 every week for two months. 

The mowing magnate said the government shouldn’t be able to shut down an entire industry without due reason. 

‘If someone is put out of work they deserve justification and we’ve been asking for that justification but it’s never been forthcoming’, he said.  

The self-made millionaire has already signaled that he will appeal the decision to a higher court if Mr Thompson’s case was to be thrown out. 

Court documents state the matter is ‘in response to public health recommendations about social distancing and to reduce the impact and risk of COVID-19 transmission’.

The founder of Jim's Mowing has blasted the Victorian government for banning his franchisees from working and then offering traders a $3billion small business package

The founder of Jim’s Mowing has blasted the Victorian government for banning his franchisees from working and then offering traders a $3billion small business package

The document concedes that ‘a number of applications’ have been lodged with the Tribunal under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

All of the applications challenge the scope of Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton’s lockdown, questioning if there were ‘sufficient grounds’.

Mr Penman has previously slammed the state government’s $3billion Business Survival and Adaptation Package which saw handouts of up to $20,000 for affected businesses with a wages bill of up to $10million. 

‘This is a sick joke. He throws us out of work, destroys our business for absolutely no reason, no reason at all,’ he told Sky News presenter Paul Murray in August. 

‘He tosses us a few dollars and we’re expected to say, ‘Thank you, wonderful Premier.’ 

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