SPEA: SNC-Lavalin executives snuck in bonuses before announcing wage reductions, layoffs during COVID-19

MISSISSAUGA, April 16, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- SNC-Lavalin in its most recent filing announced that its six top executives would be receiving bonuses valued at $2.6 million while at the same time asking for salary cuts and laying off workers. The company tried to cushion the blow by announcing that senior executives would take a 20% salary reduction themselves but that would not include bonuses, incentives or stock options granted to them under the terms of their contracts.

Denise Coombs, Staff Representative of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) called this "an unconscionable effort to line their pockets at a time when employees are being laid off and asked to forgo some of their salary." She went on to say, "If they really cared about their employees they should give up 20% of their full compensation package just as their employees are being asked to do."

SNC-Lavalin has not yet reported exploring other avenues to shore up cash flow, such as temporarily halting dividend payouts to shareholders.

According to an analysis done by SPEA, top SNC-Lavalin executives are giving up a mere 4.5% of their total compensation. In 2019, actual salaries for top SNC-Lavalin executives only made up 22.5% of their total compensation. If these executives gave up 20% of their 2019 salaries, as announced the company would save less than $1 million. If they gave up 20% of their total compensation for 2019, the company would save over $4.2 million.  

Even when the company missed its financial performance targets, as it did last year, bonuses can be awarded based on non-financial metrics. For example, Sandy Taylor, the President of the Nuclear Sector and a member of SNC-Lavalin’s executive team, took home a bonus of $264,735.00 and total compensation worth nearly $2.4 million in 2019.

"This is a clear double standard: for most frontline staff, salaries make up most, if not all, of total compensation. And the total compensation of frontline staff doesn’t begin to approach the base salaries executives take home," said Coombs. "The people who make SNC-Lavalin profitable are the ones being asked to make the greatest sacrifice so executives can pocket extravagant bonuses."

Coombs concluded by saying, "We are deeply outraged that SNC-Lavalin would try and pull a fast one while people are fighting for their survival during this pandemic. All government aid in Canada is aimed at protecting the jobs and income of frontline staff so that companies are able to rebound when the pandemic ends. Layoffs and cuts to pay for frontline staff should be contemplated only as a last resort.”