Calgary Flames reverse course, offer some compensation for part-time staff

The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the owners of the Calgary Flames, Calgary Hitmen and Calgary Roughnecks, have revised their position regarding employee compensation after receiving significant backlash online.

In the wake of the NHL season being suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CSEC sent an email on Friday to hourly and event staff informing them that future shifts would not be paid for.

That decision — one that came contrary to moves made by other Canadian sports teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks — was received with significant backlash online, with the hashtag #ShameTheFlames trending on Twitter over the weekend.

On Sunday, CSEC pulled back from its decision, writing that it would adopt an income bridge support program for those employees that qualify.

“We may not get everything right, out of the gate, but we can assure you that we will continue to work hard to do what is right for all of our Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation family,” the post reads.

Part-time and event staff who have lost shifts can apply for employment insurance and receive a top-up payment from CSEC, which the corporation says will cover an overall benefit of up to 95 per cent of regular earnings.

If staff do not work enough hours to receive employment insurance benefits, they will receive the equivalent CSEC top-up potion, the corporation says.

Lou De Asis, a cashier in the concession department, said the decision from CSEC was a positive move.

“They’ve should’ve done this from the start. Sending out that letter, I felt, was like a slap in the face to everyone who worked there,” he said. “I’m very happy that they’ve finally done something about it.”

Community fundraiser

Prior to CSEC’s announcement, a fundraiser for hourly workers raised more than $39,000 for hourly workers.

Raymond Lau, a former employee at the Saddledome, said he started the fundraiser to help offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whether the Flames, whether they do something right or wrong, I’m always that half-glass full kind of guy. I always try to find the good, the positive out of it,” said Lau. “But when they sent [an email to part-time employees], it was just wrong. Especially when our arch-rival owners are paying [their employees].”

CSE is also the operator of the arena, which is owned by the City of Calgary.

Flames players Milan Lucic, Sam Bennett, and Zac Rinaldo, along with the wives of TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano, contributed to the Calgary fundraiser. The fundraiser quadrupled its $10,000 goal after just one day.

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.

The Jets, who also own the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, doubled-down on Chipman’s comments in a letter sent to part-time event staff at Bell MTS Place on Saturday.

“For approximately 97% (of the 1,050 casual and part-time employees at True North venues), income from True North is not their primary source of income,” reads part of the two-page letter. “Rather, it is supplemental income to other full and/or part-time employment, retirement income, or a part-time job while being a full or part-time student.

“For this group, True North shared that the principle of paying employees when shifts are worked will remain.”

Bell MTS Centre is wholly owned by True North.

All NHL players will be paid their final three scheduled paycheques for the 2019-20 season, according to Sportsnet.

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