It was a heartbreaking situation Village Roadshow CEO Clark Kirby never thought he’d face – how to tell 5000 people they’re all being stood down?
It was a heartbreaking situation Village Roadshow CEO Clark Kirby never thought he’d face – how to tell 5000 people they’re all being stood down?

The heartbreaking moment we told 5000 they had no job

It was a heartbreaking situation Village Roadshow CEO Clark Kirby never thought he'd face - how to tell more than 5000 people they're all being stood down from work?

Even as the theme park giant's chief operating officer Bikash Randhawa yesterday celebrated the stunning high of unveiling their reopening timetable for their attractions, Mr Kirby admits it has been a "traumatic" three months.

Movie World, Sea World and Wet'n'Wild - among the city's biggest employers - all closed indefinitely in late March, leaving its workforce in limbo and a recovery uncertain.

"That was just something I never thought I'd have to do in my entire life," Mr Kirby told the Bulletin yesterday at the relaunch function at Sea World yesterday, surrounded by returning staff across the parks.

Village Roadshow boss Clark Kirby. Picture Glenn Hampson
Village Roadshow boss Clark Kirby. Picture Glenn Hampson

"It was heartbreaking. I never want to have to do that again."

The park stood down thousands of staff in late March at the same time the Gold Coast was experiencing some of its highest daily increases in coronavirus cases.

A Village announcement at the time revealed the executive team had slashed their own renumeration packages and provided access to accrued leave entitlements for staff.

The entitlements covered annual leave, days in lieu and toil, as well as an additional 10 days in leave granted to any staff who needed it.

The amount of staff left in limbo weighed heavily on Mr Kirby, who admitted he spent a lot of sleepless nights before the announcement of the Federal Government's $60 billion $1500-a-fortnight JobKeeper scheme.

"It was the fact that it was unknown how long we were going to (be able to) look after our staff," Mr Kirby said.

"Because we were allowing them to draw on annual leave but obviously that would run out at some point. Then they're in a very precarious position."

The day it was unveiled by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Mr Kirby admitted to the Bulletin: "I will have the best night's sleep tonight in a long time because I know so many of my key people will be in a much better position - and they will sleep well themselves."

Yesterday, he added: "With the initiation of the JobKeeper payment it just gave our staff a lot more stability."

Village Roadshow CEO Clark Kirby and COO Bikash Randhawa with the Justice League at the announcement of the reopening. Picture Glenn Hampson
Village Roadshow CEO Clark Kirby and COO Bikash Randhawa with the Justice League at the announcement of the reopening. Picture Glenn Hampson

For Mr Randhawa it was difficult knowing just how many people were waiting on him and his executive team for answers they just didn't have.

"We live a very structured life, we know where certain things finish and certain things start so you can plan," he said.

"Having not been through something like this and not knowing what was in front of us was the most difficult part of this pandemic.

"Not knowing when things are happening, when we're going to open, having no clear direction.

"Even when there was clarity we were not getting any dates, not getting any sort of clarity on (whether) it was going to be three months, four months.

"And this wasn't just about the people employed by VRTP, this was about the massive supply chain. Local businesses, restaurants, accommodation houses were all eagerly waiting on us to open so they could start getting people back."

Now happily Village has dates for its staff and the city - June 26 for Sea World, July 3 for Outback Spectacular and July 15 for Movie World and Wet 'n' Wild - though Mr Randhawa has likened reopening with the border still shut to "shooting an arrow in the dark".

"For us, without our team nothing matters," he said.

Village Roadshow COO Bikash Randhawa. Picture Glenn Hampson
Village Roadshow COO Bikash Randhawa. Picture Glenn Hampson

"We're all like one big family and for us it's like your own family member is struggling, it affects you. If your friend is suffering, it affects you.

"When this all exploded, every day it became bigger and bigger. It was doom and gloom. The world was collapsing.

"On that front it was a huge responsibility, we have a responsibility to a large number of people. That is a huge burden because you desperately want to get an answer out.

"You want to try and accept what's happening but you also want to find a solution."

Originally published as 'Heartbreaking moment we told 5000 they had no job'