17 Mar 2020

Covid-19: SkyCity cannot rule out job losses

From Checkpoint, 6:10 pm on 17 March 2020

All bets are off as SkyCity says it cannot rule out job losses in the wake of Covid-19 restrictions in New Zealand, but it is looking at cutting hours before any redundancies.

In an effort to protect its more than 5000 staff, the company has turned off 40 percent of its pokies on its main casino gaming floor, reduced the number of people allowed at gaming tables and instructed staff to self-isolate.

SkyCity chief executive Graeme Stephens told Checkpoint while the business was well-geared to weather the decline in customers, it was planning for what a total shutdown of its operations could look like.

"We made a decision to turn off every second electronic gaming machine so there's a space between players," Stephens said.

"We're limiting the number of players at any one table to no more than five … and, ultimately if we get too busy we'll just have to turn people away."

Stephens said SkyCity was planning a market update for Wednesday.

"It's obviously been a moving feast. We thought we were ready to go out towards the end of last week but new regulations and restrictions over the weekend means we've got another look at it.

"We're not facing the same immediate crisis that other businesses are facing in the industry, we're still a largely domestic business, and I think absent community to community cases of coronavirus in New Zealand, people are still happy to go out."

The restrictions have impacted international visitors who use the hotel and go up the Sky Tower he said, and it will probably get worse over the next few months.

He said the company hoped not to see job losses, and no redundancies were being targeted right now.

"Over the next 12 to 14 months we're a big net employer. We'll be hoping get the hotel in Auckland open first half of 2021, so it is counterintuitive to be losing jobs now only to employ again in the not too distant future."

He said the company was looking at looking at cutting staff hours before cutting jobs.

"If we were forced to close, that's obviously a different world. We employ over 5,000 people. So closure is something we try avoid at all cost.

"[But] all of us have to plan for the possibility of a total lockdown."