True North Sports + Entertainment has announced that it will go against its original plan, and will be paying its part-time and casual labour employees during the month of March while the NHL is in a suspended state.
Originally, Jets ownership announced this past Thursday that the 1,200 part-time, in-arena, game-day staff would not be receiving paycheques as the 2019-20 NHL season was put on hold following the recent upswing in seriousness surrounding COVID-19.
Executive Chairman and Governor Mark Chipman made that point clear when he stated at the media availability that the employees “work when we work”. The statement may not have originally come with much thought, or may not have been expressed in the way ownership may have wanted it to appear.
However, despite backlash as countless other NHL and NBA clubs and players stepped up to pay in-arena staff, True North deepened its stance, sending out a letter on Saturday to all casual and part-time employees, explaining its decision to not pay staff for the upcoming Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose games, as well as cancelled events scheduled for Bell MTS Place in the coming weeks/months.
The letter did indicate that roughly 97 percent of those staff members do not quantify payment from True North as their primary income, rather letting it serve as supplemental payment in addition to other full-time, part-time or retirement income. True North did indicate that other arrangements would be made for the remaining three percent that do rely on game-day, in-arena payment as their primary source of income.
But late Sunday evening, True North changed its tone, announcing in another letter to its casual and part-time staff that it would be paying its in-arena/game-day staff for the hours that they were scheduled to work during the month of March, staying exclusive to the Jets and Moose home game schedules as well as in-arena event bookings. There was no indication of what would happen during the month of April. The Jets were not scheduled to host a home game, while the Moose did have three contest in the queue.
The letter indicated that serving as the first NHL team to speak publicly on the matter, the Jets were seemingly blindsided by the efforts made by other teams across the league to pay their casual and part-time labourers. A fair explanation, however, the follow-up letter was in-fact dated for Saturday, March 14. At that point, 16 NHL clubs had already made the promise to pay their affected employees.
“Regardless of whether we resume play in either the NHL or AHL, True North casual and part-time employees will be paid in full for all remaining Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose home games through to the end of March 31, 2020 – as though those games occurred. 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. For greater clarity, this is payment for games and venue programming in March as if they had taken place.”
True North – in its letter penned by Chipman and Chief Operating Officer John Ofter – also pointed out that should those games be rescheduled or made up at a later date, employees working those hours would be fairly compensated as per custom.
“We sincerely apologize for any concern that our original position may have caused. We wish you and your families all the very best as we navigate these unique and challenging circumstances.”