The Australian gambling group Crown Resorts managed to recover goodwill payments of two weeks’ wages to the members of its staff, who were fired because of the coronavirus pandemic, from local taxpayers. The casino company claimed the money back thanks to the JobKeeper scheme of the Government.
However, according to experts, Crown Resorts’ agreement to pay both its full- and part-time employees their salaries for a fortnight following the closures of the Melbourne and Perth casinos on March 23rd, came as positive PR for the group, which has been facing multiple instances of criticism this year, as well as an ongoing probity inquiry in the state of New South Wales (NSW).
As The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald revealed, the Australian casino giant had managed to quickly cover most of the “ex gratia” payment expenses at the time it signed up to the Government’s JobKeeper wage scheme a few weeks later.
The company, however, continued to talk about the payments presenting them as a sign of the company’s support for its employees. In Crown Resorts’ annual report, which was published in September, the company’s boss Ken Barton said that the casino operator had made an ex gratia payment that was worth two weeks’ pay to its employees but he failed to reveal that much of that amount was actually covered by JobKeeper.
JobKeeper Money Not Likely to Have Covered All Staff Payments but Helped
The JobKeeper scheme of the Government offers a subsidy of AU$1,500 per fortnight, with the payments being backdated to March 1st. The money provided by the Government is not likely to have covered the total expenses of Crown Resorts’ staff payments. The Australian casino operator paid a significant amount of AU$1,000 to some casual workers, but it was only its long-term casual staff members who were eligible to get the payments.
The union that represents the gaming floor and hospitality workers of Crown Resorts, the United Workers Union, shared some concern that the company’s management did not do well with the pandemic payments, as these payments came as a commitment made by Crown Resorts to its workforce. According to the union, such payments should not be subsidised by the taxpayers but Crown stood by its decision.
Currently, about 18,500 people are employed by the group at its casinos in Melbourne and Perth. A total of 11,500 of them were stood down from work during the coronavirus pandemic closures.
According to the gambling operator’s annual report, the overall amount received by Crown Resorts in JobKeeper payments from March to the end of June 2020, was AU$111 million, with AU$68 million going directly to stood-down workers. The remaining AU$43 million were redirected to staff members who continued to work part- or full-time.
A hardship fund was also established by Crown Resorts during 2020 to make support payments to workers who were sent home but were not eligible for getting financial support under the JobKeeper scheme.