Oilers, Flames announce temporary staff layoffs linked to COVID-19 pandemic

The ownership groups behind Alberta’s two NHL teams announced nearly 300 layoffs Monday.

The Oilers Entertainment Group said it’s temporarily laying off 139 workers.

Meanwhile, Calgary Sports and Entertainment will move forward with a 60-day temporary layoff of 150 employees, representing around 50 per cent of its full-time workforce.

In both cases, employees have been given two weeks’ notice. The layoffs are effective April 13.

The Oilers didn’t specify how long the temporary layoff of their employees will last.

Both groups tied the layoffs to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, after the NHL season was postponed indefinitely on March 12 to protect employee and fan safety.

Other factors include disruptions to seasons of other minor and junior hockey teams owned by the groups — the Edmonton Oil Kings, Calgary Hitmen, Bakersfield Condors and Stockton Heat.

Concerts and other live entertainment scheduled to be held at Rogers Place, the Saddledome and other arenas operated by the two groups have been similarly postponed.

Calgary Sports and Entertainment said it applied for and received consent from Service Canada to provide a supplemental unemployment benefit plan and offer an employment insurance top-up for all employees affected by the layoff. The group also said it will continue to pay for health and dental benefits.

Remaining staff will see their salary cut by 10 to 25 per cent, to be able to keep their jobs. Calgary Sports and Entertainment said higher salary levels will see larger rates of reductions, with executive management taking the highest percentage rollbacks.

In Edmonton, the Oilers Entertainment Group said it will create an employee assistance fund to ensure all non-executive employees who have been laid off, or who are working from home, will still receive 75 to 90 per cent of their salaries.

“These actions are difficult but necessary to respond to the reality of an effective shutdown of our business. In spite of this, we remain committed to doing all that we can for our employees,” Tom Anselmi, business president with the Oilers Entertainment group, said in a statement Monday.

“We are protecting the livelihood of our employees as best we can and are committed to getting them back to work as soon as possible.”

John Bean, president of Calgary Sports and Entertainment, said in a separate statement that the layoffs are temporary and remaining staff were retained to navigate the health crisis and help prepare for the company’s recovery and the return of laid-off colleagues.

“We are working extremely hard to limit the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on our employees,” Bean said. “The implementation of this cost reduction plan will provide predictability of income to our staff while minimizing the negative impact on their financial health and that of the business.”

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