It has now been four months since the first case of novel coronavirus in China was reported.
Now renamed COVID-19, it has had a crippling effect on most industries and economies across the world.
While the fallout from this dreaded virus cannot be ignored, it is somewhat disappointing that some major employers always choose to tell their workers to get going the moment the going gets tough.
When a government takes the decision to implement a 24-hour lockdown and allow only essential services and businesses to operate, as has so widely happened throughout the world and in our region over the past month, we sympathise with a micro and small business that is forced to lay off its staff and shut shop.
But we have a hard time understanding how major companies – who have been reporting profits in the millions and in some cases billions of dollars on an annual basis -see it fit either to fire their staff or reduce their salaries whenever the profit line and bonus cheque are threatened.
This is occurring not only in Barbados.
In one of the biggest football leagues in the world, the English Premier League (EPL), teams have already started to lay off workers. They have also asked players to take pay cuts.
According to a 2019 report by Forbes, Tottenham Hotspurs was rated as the ninth richest football club in the world with an estimated value of $3.2 billion (US$1.6 billion).
Yet, just a few weeks after the global COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the EPL, Spurs co-owner Daniel Levy – estimated to be worth $2 billion – slashed the wages of 550 of its non-playing staff by one-fifth.
This is the same football club that raked in about $1.2 billion (460 million pounds) in revenue last year – a $190 million increase over the previous year.
As recently as this week, players from Barcelona FC, which according to Forbes is the second richest football club with an estimated value of $8 billion (US$4.06 billion), took a decision to take a pay cut to be able to pay wages to non-sporting staff.
While that is a noble gesture from the players – most of whom are financially stable – as they understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for persons to have enough financial resources to support their families, owners like Levy are concerned only about themselves.
Accounts for June 2019 showed that Levy had earned $8 million, up from $6 million in 2017-2018, as chairman, plus a deferred bonus of $6 million for the completion of the club’s new stadium.
Despite receiving these significant sums of money, Levy still felt the need to cut his staff’s money, while also calling for managers and players to take pay cuts to help English football deal with its “financial problems”.
Over in the NBA, another billion-dollar sporting organization, players opted to donate millions of dollars in an effort to save the jobs of thousands of non-playing staff who were in line to lose their jobs following a decision by the NBA to suspend the league three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the billionaire owners are focused mainly on their dwindling profits.
Here in Barbados, there are also examples of employers who have chosen their bottom line over their employers.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic had fully reached our shores, countless hotels and restaurants had already begun to layoff workers, citing cancellations and reduced bookings as the reason.
Very few of those companies have seen the need to absorb some of the losses, in exchange for making sure their staff can continue to have a job.
It is as if money is the be-all and end-all, and that workers are dispensable at any time.
These businesses don’t seem to understand that it is those very same workers who have helped their companies to be successful and thrive. And they will need them to help rebuild the firms they had already built, dollar by dollar, brick by brick.
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