Dust storm leaves businesses in the red

Record levels of absenteeism, cancelled flights and meetings due to yesterday’s dust storm are set to hit NSW’s economy, the Sydney Business Chamber says.

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*NSW could lose tens of millions from storm

*Work absenteeism jumped 25 per cent

*Meetings cancelled, flights delayed

*More revenue for cleaning industry

“We don’t have a figure but there has certainly been an impact on businesses from the dust cloud, mainly from absenteeism, health reasons and transport”, chamber spokesman Chris Taylor said.

The weather forced an extra 27,000 workers to take the day off, with absenteeism levels jumping by 25 per cent, Mr Taylor said.

“Some people tried to work from home if that was a possibility”.

Once the storm cleared up, people started to resume their daily activities.

Circolar Quay was very quiet in the first part of the day, so that would have had an impact on business, SBS was told.

However, Mr Taylor said today was a ‘business as usual’.

Cancelled flights to cost millions

With flights suspended during the morning, Australian Industry Group NSW director Mark Goodsell said the disruption to Sydney to Melbourne air traffic alone would be felt for weeks to come.

“We’ll be washing away the dust from our doors for days but it’ll take months to wash it out of the economy,” Mr Goodsell told the Daily Telegraph.

He said the cancellation of meetings forced by delayed or cancelled flights would cost millions.

Construction unions shut down building sites after workers complained of eye irritations and respiratory problems, the newspaper reported.

One of the sites shut down was the Westfield Centrepoint redevelopment in the heart of the Sydney CBD.

Dust storm ‘good news for cleaners’

However, the dust storm was good good news for cleaners, Mr Taylor told SBS.

He said 80,000 seats had to be individually cleaned at the ANZ stadium, before tomorrow night’s match between the Bulldogs and the Eels.

The clean-up project was expected to take 50 cleaners 24 hours each to finish the job in two 12-hour shifts.

National Farmers Federation chief Ben Fargher said the dust storm would heighten awareness of the drought, which had literally landed on the doorsteps of the “big smoke”.

“Parts of NSW have seen total crop write-offs,” he said. “In many cases in southwestern NSW, farms have been reduced to bare dirt.”

An Insurance Council of Australia spokesman said it was yet to form a “task force”, normally set up if an extreme weather event resulted in damage exceeding $10 million.

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