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Flames won't pay event staff during COVID-19 suspension; Oilers offer assistance

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The Calgary Flames will not be assisting their part-time, hourly, and event staff who will be underemployed during the suspension of the NHL season.

The Flames sent an email to their hourly and event staff when the NHL paused the season Thursday as the league agreed to suspend play to try and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"Alberta Employment Standards requires that employers provide 24 hours' notice for cancellation of scheduled shifts," said in the email which was obtained by The Canadian Press on Saturday.

"CSEC will pay employees where the notification of cancellation was less than 24 hours. No payment will be made for shifts cancelled with greater than 24 hours’ notice.

"Effective March 12, 2020, all future games have been suspended and substantially all scheduled hourly shifts have been cancelled."

Calgary Sport and Entertainment president and chief executive officer John Bean said on Thursday that CSEC employs 1,500 part-time staff.

CSEC also owns the Western Hockey League's Hitmen and the National Lacrosse League's Roughnecks. Both of those leagues have also suspended their seasons to try and combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

A request for comment sent to Calgary Sports and Entertainment by The Canadian Press was not immediately returned.

True North Sports & Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman, who runs the Winnipeg Jets, said at a press conference on Thursday his company's part-time employees are also out of luck.

"Those people are on part-time agreements," Chipman said. "They work when we work. So, regrettably, to the extent that we're not putting on shows and games, those people obviously would not have a call to work."

The Edmonton Oilers followed the lead of  the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, announcing their plan to help their employees make up the difference between their regular earnings and what employment insurance will cover.

"The pause of NHL hockey, concerts and events at Rogers Place has hit everyone hard, but it has created an even more difficult situation for our nearly 1,650 part time staff. As a result, we are rolling out an assistance program to ensure their well-being is protected," said Oilers Entertainment Group president and chief operating officer Tom Anselmi.

"All part time staff affected by a temporary halt in our operations will receive financial payment to bridge them between their maximum EI benefits and their regular average earnings for remaining regular season games."

The Oilers also said they will continue their food program and excess food that is perishable will be donated to Edmonton's Food Bank.

That decision was similar to one made by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which owns the NHL's Maple Leafs, NBA's Raptors, American Hockey League's Marlies, and Major League Soccer's Toronto FC — all of which have had their seasons suspended.

MLSE unveiled details of a program to assist close to 4,000 part-time and event staff at Scotiabank Arena, BMO Field and Coca-Cola Coliseum on Friday.

Canucks Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena, released a statement late Friday outlining its plans in broad strokes.

"CSE has committed to a program that will help any part-time employee who requires support," Trent Carroll, the company's chief operating officer, said. "The program will be based on individual need, to avoid financial hardship during this unexpected employment disruption."

The Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens have not indicated how they will address the issue of underemployment for their event staff.

On Saturday, the Buffalo Sabres said they would continue to pay their part-time employees. The New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks, have made it clear they will follow similar paths.

— With files from Donna Spencer in Calgary and Joshua Clipperton in Toronto.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press





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