Bidvest Group sets aside R400m towards employee relief initiatives
DURBAN - The Bidvest Group has set aside R400 million towards employee relief initiatives as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Bidvest said on Thursday that the money would be allocated through a newly formed special purpose vehicle, the Bidvest Group Covid-19 Employee Fund, to support employees that were financially distressed as a result of the lockdown.
The services, trading and distribution group said the fund would be used to supplement the income needs of staff who had been unable to work during the lockdown. Chief executive Lindsay Ralphs said South Africa was going through an unprecedented crisis like the rest of the world and diversified companies like Bidvest were not immune to the economic fallout.
“As one of the largest employers on the JSE Top 40 index, we nevertheless recognise that our people are our most valuable asset and are making financial arrangements that will help us shield them against the impact of the crisis,” Ralph said. “The management team has further committed to doing all in its power to ensure that we pay over income benefits to our employees as quickly as possible so as to limit unnecessary suffering during this time.” Bidvest employs more than 100 000 people in the country.
The group said the fund would be used to subsidise incomes for job grades from general workers to supervisors and managers. The group said employees would each receive a R200 ex-gratia payment to assist them with immediate needs and to supplement any UIF temporary employer/employee relief scheme (Ters) allowance being offered by the government.
Bidvest added that this funding mechanism would ensure that the most vulnerable employees received as close as possible to their full salary during this difficult time. However, the group announced that employees who had been able to work during the lockdown period would receive their salaries in accordance with standard business practices. Bidvest said its executives would take a 40 percent pay cut while board members would be reduced by 30 percent. The group said the board and executive committee had also agreed to establish similar funds at divisional and subsidiary level to meet the humanitarian needs of staff in those areas of the business.
The group said this would help to mitigate the impact and to ease the transition between the various lockdown phases of its subsidiaries. In the six months to end December, Bidvest reported a 9.2 percent increase in revenue to R43.7 billion while trading profit surged 19.8 percent to R4bn.