The Montreal Canadiens have temporarily laid off 60% of their employees effective March 30, the team announced, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This decision was necessary given the significant impact the pandemic has had on the sports and entertainment industries,” the Canadiens said in a media release.
Groupe CH has established a $6 million assistance fund, in an “effort to reduce the impact of this decision on the employees.” The fund will help enhance Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for a period of eight weeks, the team says, ensuring all employees will receive 80% of their base salary during that time.
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The fund will also be made available to provide loans to employees who find themselves in “difficult financial situations,” the team added.
“Now more than ever, it is important to support our community and demonstrate our solidarity to one another,” said Canadiens owner Geoff Molson. “We are working extremely hard to limit the impact this situation will have on our employees. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our employees for their understanding and patience. During difficult times like these, our commitment to one another will help us rebound faster.”
The Canadiens say they are committed to “returning the organization’s employees back to work as soon as the situation permits.”
The NHL paused its season on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The league has not cancelled the remainder of the season and playoffs, though that possibility becomes more likely with every passing day. So far, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said that he is open to all possibilities, which could include playing the Stanley Cup playoffs in July and August.
The Canadiens were not destined for postseason play this season, and had just four home games remaining on their schedule. The virus has also forced the suspension of the AHL’s Laval Rocket, as well as the cancellation or postponement to numerous concerts and events at the Bell Centre.