March 25, 2020 / 12:40 AM / 6 days ago

UPDATE 1-Australia's Star Entertainment to put most staff on leave due to coronavirus lockdown

(Adds details of layoffs by other companies, background)

March 25 (Reuters) - Star Entertainment Group Ltd said on Wednesday 90% of its 9,000 staff will be asked to stand down temporarily with two weeks paid “pandemic leave” due to casino closures mandated by the Australian government to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of cases of the virus have crossed 2,000 in Australia, with eight deaths, prompting the government to take stricter measures to control the outbreak including the closure of pubs, cinemas, churches and casinos.

“This is a unique environment and one beyond our control in which we’re determined to balance the necessary measures needed to protect the business while considering the considerable human impact to our workforce,” Chairman John O’Neill said in a statement.

All those affected by the move, including senior management, will be given two weeks of paid “pandemic leave”, the casino operator said, without elaborating on what such entitlements entailed.

Other senior management and members of the board will give up a “significant percentage” of their salaries and fees, Star Entertainment said, but did not specify how much.

“We are also confronting, like the rest of society, an unprecedented challenge in the COVID-19 situation,” Chief Executive Officer Matt Bekier added.

Earlier this week, Crown Resorts said it was assessing what the closures to its casino network would mean to its 18,500 employees in the states of Victoria and Western Australia.

The coronavirus is taking a mounting toll on livelihoods. On Wednesday, Virgin Australia said 8,000 of its employees will be put on leave, while, last week Qantas Airways placed 20,00 of its staff on leave. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Stephen Coates)

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