EDMONTON — The CEO of a group that runs several venues, including the NHL arena where the Edmonton Oilers play, is defending his decision to fire all its parking lot cashiers amid allegations of rampant theft.
Tim Reid of non-profit Northlands said Friday that some of the 38 people let go were upright and exceptional employees, but had to go anyway.
“It was a very holistic change,” Reid said. “Not everybody was at fault in this. This was a reaction for the betterment of the company.”
The mass firing was necessary because tracking down and firing just those responsible would have taken four months at a cost of $400,000 in lost revenue, he said.
“What we know is that money has gone missing. We know that for a fact.”
Reid wouldn’t say if any managers overseeing parking would also be held responsible, but admitted there was fault in the front office.
“We had breach of process that we had not been managing to the fullest of our abilities.”
He said Northlands will be outsourcing the parking to a third-party contractor.
“This may not seem like the most fair decision, but it was the most financially viable for the company.”
The Oilers are the primary tenants at Rexall Place and are not commercially linked to it in any way. The team is to move to a new downtown arena starting in the 2016-17 NHL season
Northlands charges $20 for parking at major events. Many of the fired cashiers worked part-time making minimum wage.
Reid said two audits in the summer, which involved car counts and cameras in parking-lot booths, showed that about one dollar in five was either being pocketed or not collected by cashiers.
About half of employees checked weren’t following procedures, he added.
Northlands makes about $6 million a year in parking, so Reid estimated the annual lost revenue between $700,000 and $1.2 million.
Reid said if the Northlands board feels evidence of theft is compelling enough, it may turn the information over to police for possible criminal investigation.
Some of the fired cashiers said they are considering lawsuits for defamation.
“It is very serious because there were people that relied on this job, there were people that needed this job,” one of the cashiers, Sarah Pollard, told radio station CHED. “There was somebody that was here for almost 33 years who no longer works here and was treated the exact same way.”
Reid said he feels Northlands can successfully defend against any lawsuits.
— with files from CHED
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press