Future Proposes Layoffs Of Key Staff During Global Pandemic Despite Anticipated Profit In 2020

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Future PLC, a media company behind multiple gaming and technology websites and publications, proposed letting go of multiple employees on Thursday and Friday, according to a statement from the Future Union posted on Twitter. The proposal was made despite a public statement released Friday from the company explaining that the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has so far “seen limited impact on our digital revenues.”

Future oversees GamesRadar+, Tom’s Guide, TechRadar, PC Gamer, and other gaming and technology websites, events, and publications, as well as some non-gaming/technology centered offerings.

The recent weeks have been unprecedented,” according to the March 20 statement from Future. “However, our business has continued to trade robustly, with the diversified strategy working well. As of today, we have seen limited impact on our digital revenues. Whilst we have seen declines in the travel outlets within the magazine portfolio we are seeing [year-over-year] growth in the grocers which is partly offsetting the impact of this and therefore, based on our visibility of our key metrics, we continue to expect trading to remain in line with our previous expectations. However, prudently because of the increased volatility, we have implemented some profit protection measures.”

“The business continues to be highly cash generative and we expect half-year cash to be in line with guidance.”

The statement was released just one day after proposed layoffs of non-union employees occurred, and concurrent with proposed layoffs of union employees.

The aforementioned “profit protection measures” include proposed layoffs which, if enacted, will impact nine members of the Future Union, and an estimated 38 employees total, according to a private message from the Union.

A previous statement from the company released March 10 stated that “..the Board does not expect there to be an impact on profit for the year to 30 September 2020 and no impact on the following financial year.”

Due to concerns over spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Future decided to postpone two UK events for later this year, and stated that it will monitor and make a decision on smaller upcoming events based on the events’ “local market dynamics.” However, the company stated that it did not anticipate any effect on profit from these postponements.

“Overall, we are seeing limited impact of Coronavirus in our day-to-day business model,” the March 10 statement reads. “Our strategy is working well in terms of audience, product and end market diversification. The fundamentals of our business have not changed, our headline audience numbers continue to be strong, and our operating disciplines mean that we are well placed to meet the challenges and opportunities arising from these dynamic market conditions.

“Whilst the Board continues to monitor the situation closely, the Group does not expect any impact on profit as a result of postponing these events.”

Those impacted by layoffs would include Marshall Honorof, gaming editor at Tom’s Guide.

In a statement to Future Union, Honorof expressed the distress of the layoff during a still-developing pandemic.

“My situation could change considerably if I lose this job,” Honorof said, citing concern over losing health coverage for himself and his partner as well as housing.

The Future Union is calling for the company to reverse the proposed layoffs of “essential employees,” noting that its sites are already struggling to adjust without the support of a freelance journalist budget, a resource which the union stated previously provided essential work necessary for maintaining its websites.

The Future Union proposed executives, including CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne, absorb minor cuts to their own compensation packages in order to maintain the salaries of nine essential employees, citing the example set by Delta CEO Ed Bastion and other executives in a March 19 statement.

“The prudent move here is plainly to cut excess executive compensation, not to wreck our journalism in the midst of a pandemic,” the Future Union’s statement declared on Tuesday. “We call on management to withdraw its proposed layoffs today.”

When reached for comment, the Future Union thanked the support of the gaming industry.

“It’s been enormously gratifying seeing the support we’ve received from colleagues across our industry,” a Future Union spokesperson stated. “And [we want to express] how proud we are of the enormous solidarity our whole union has shown.”

As of publication time, Future PLC has not responded to a request for comment.

Do you work in the games industry? Reach out to me with details of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you at lizlanierwrites at gmail.com.

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