WINNIPEG — True North Sports + Entertainment has changed its tune and agreed to compensate casual and part-time employees amid event cancellations due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
In an internal email to staff late Sunday, Jets chairman Mark Chipman and TNSE president and COO John Olfert said the company would pay employees for the remaining Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose home games, as if they were played, through to the end of March 31.
Both the NHL and AHL seasons were suspended indefinitely earlier this week due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
“Furthermore, this includes lost wages for casual and part-time True North employees for events and programming through to the end of March scheduled at Bell MTS Place, Burton Cummings Theatre, Bell MTS Iceplex, Jets Gear, and the True North Youth Foundation,” the email said.
True North said in the event games and programming resume prior to the end of the month, staff will be compensated for that work at that time.
“We do sincerely apologize for any concern our original position may have caused. We wish you and your families all the best as we navigate these unique and challenging circumstances,” the email went on to say.
On Saturday, True North doubled down on comments made by Chipman on Thursday, stating staff would be paid when work resumes and not any sooner.
In that previous communication, Olfert said, “for approximately 97% (of the 1,050 casual and part-time employees who work at True North venues), income from True North is not their primary source of income.”
The public backlash to those comments was swift online, with many publicly calling on the organization to do better.
The letter added for the other 3% of employees who count on the income for their livelihood, “other arrangements have and are being explored.”
The about-face made by True North follows similar moves by other NHL clubs this weekend to compensate hourly employees.
The Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens announced an assistance program for their game-day employees without work on Sunday, while the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks set up assistance programs earlier in the week.
The Ottawa Senators haven’t announced any decisions on the issue.