QRU opt against staff stand downs in coronavirus pandemic

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Queensland Rugby Union have opted against standing staff down in the immediate future amid the coronavirus pandemic but will cut salaries and hours drastically.

QRU CEO David Hanham said the organisation expected to miss out on $15 million in potential amid the suspended Super Rugby and community seasons.

The QRU was the only state or national rugby organisation not to stand any staff down on Tuesday, instead wanting to keep much of its staff working in a very different environment.

The Federal government's JobKeeper announcement on Monday allows for businesses to pass on a $1500/fortnight to eligible employees still registered with a business as of March 1 2020.

Businesses can choose to top this amount up if an employee is working or pass on just that minimum amount or they can pass on that amount to a stood down employee.

Hanham did not disclose the scale of salary or hour reductions across the business but it is expected that some staff will be receiving just the minimum $1500/fortnight despite continuing to work.

"At the moment, all eligible staff will remain in employment," he said.

"We've looked at it, based on the jobkeeper program that gives us the ability to look at a reduced load around their own working hours which will be effectively calculated based on their rate and how many days that'll apply.

"That's given us the ability to keep, at this point, everyone who is eligible in a job."

Hanham said staff had expressed a desire to continue working in whatever capacity was possible amid the coronavirus shutdown and that their plan was to ensure all their employees stayed involved with the business at some level.

"I know Rugby Australia are working through how they'll transition back. I don't think technically they're any worse off in the sense of the jobkeeper payment," he said.

"For us, we felt it was important to make sure that our staff maintain that connection.

"We've got jobs to do, everyone's got a job to do during these times even on a reduced load and I think on the mental health side of it, first and foremost people want to focus on their career which is number one but I think equally focusing on people feeling like they've got a sense of purpose, a connection.

"You go from working in this place 5-6 days a week and you just don't want to stop. Our staff, through conversations today, are right behind that and they want to keep connected to the business."

Hanham said on Tuesday afternoon that he would be taking a 40 per cent pay cut for the immediate future and that the executive would also be sacrificing major chunks of pay.

"From my perspective it's 40 per cent and I won't go into the individual executive but it's significant around their contribution towards this," he said.

"We know as an executive team but also the people that are here, we've got to effectively work overtime for the business to get through this as well.

"So, for any that aren't on a reduced load, that are working full-time, they're going to receive a significant salary reduction but have the obligation and the opportunity that they're going to push through this hard time working 6-7 days a week."

Discussions between Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players' Association are still ongoing but Hanham said Queensland's players certainly expected to "shoulder the burden" of the ongoing financial challenges.

"The players are an important partnership in the game and they know that speaking to our guys, that there is a requirement for them to shoulder the burden of this," he said.

"We've all got one outcome, is to get through this and get through it together.

"I can only reflect on our players that they're supportive and understanding that decisions need to be made and hopefully they're made in the next couple of days for all of us."

This article doesn't represent the views of Rugby Australia or its affiliated state and member unions.