Canadian telco Shaw Communications is temporarily laying off about 10% of its workforce, driven by the “extraordinary and unpredictable conditions” of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The company said that the positions are mostly in sales and retail, and the layoffs will begin tomorrow.

Shaw added that as a company, it is “ineligible for any emergency government assistance programs” and that it will be using its own funds to “top up government Employment Insurance payments at various levels, depending on employee earnings.” It said that it will also extend benefits and pension contributions to eligible non-union employees during the layoff period.

“Government leaders across the country have taken significant and necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of Canadians and to limit the spread of the virus. These measures have resulted in dramatic shortages or stoppages of work in specific areas of our business where we have had to make the hard decisions being announced today,” said Paul McAleese, Shaw’s president. “We value the hard work and expertise of all our employees in helping deliver connectivity to our customers across the country. Unfortunately, these changes are necessary until our business activities resume to more normal levels. … With our gratitude, we will be providing financial support to affected employees beyond applicable government programs, and we look forward to welcoming them back when business conditions improve.”

Shaw closed its stores across Canada starting on March 15 and said that it shifted the majority of its workforce to working from home. As part of its coronavirus response, the company made its Shaw Go Wi-Fi available for free to both customers and non-customers across western Canada in response to the pandemic, as well as making some educational content available free of charge and donating $1 million to Canadian community food banks. The telco also postponed a service rate increase that had been slated to take effect on June 1.

When Shaw reported its quarterly earnings last week, McAleese said that the company continues to see increased network usage and that its “network upgrades over the past few years have put us in a solid position to handle increased traffic.”

The company said that consolidated revenues were up 3.7% in the quarter to $1.36 billion, with net income at $167 million compared to $154 million in the same period last year, mostly due to a decrease in income tax expense. Shaw added about 54,000 net postpaid Freedom Wireless customers during the quarter and about 6,100 wireline internet customers during the most recent quarter, and said that its losses in video customers are improving.

“We are in unprecedented times as the world grapples with the impacts of COVID-19, the recent commodity price pressure, and the uncertain economic period ahead,” said Brad Shaw, CEO and executive chair of the company, in a statement on the company’s quarterly results.


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