Grendas pay workers extra $15 million

The surprise money give-away to Grenda Transit employees by their former boss flows on this weekend at Volgren

Grendas pay workers extra $15 million
Grendas pay workers extra $15m

By Ian Porter | February 1, 2012

The fast-money men of Collins Street or Pitt Street – Australia’s Gordon Geckos if you like – just wouldn’t get it.

"Give money away? To the workers?" is how one Collins Street conversation might have gone after it was revealed that Melbourne’s Grenda family had decided to make a bonus payment to all the workers in the bus group that the family no longer owns.

Flush with around $400 million from the sale of the bus-operating arm Grenda Transit and soon to receive further cash from the sale of the bus bodybuilding business Volgren, the family has decided to distribute around $15 million in bonuses to employees in both operations.

The people at Grenda Transit got their bonuses on Wednesday, two days after the sale of Transit was completed.

"The sale of Volgren is due to complete tomorrow (February 2) and hence the (Volgren people) haven’t got a bonus yet, and they are probably … hoping like Hell they’re getting one as well," managing director Scott Grenda says.

"All things being equal, they’ll get a pretty nice package over the weekend."

The payments average around $10,000 per person and vary according to how long people have been at the company and the positions they hold.

The formula was varied to avoid someone receiving a sum like $15 or $20, Grenda says.

"It had to be meaningful. We wanted 4 to 5 to 6 weeks’ pay as the minimum," he says.

The employees have loomed large in the family’s thoughts throughout the sale process. The idea to pay a bonus came after the family decided to make it a condition of the sales that no employee would be retrenched.

Soon after the family had decided to sell, Grenda’s father Ken "wandered" into the office and said, "If we get this right, let’s give something back to the staff".

The idea of paying a bonus to employees was a reflection of how the company had been run like a family outfit for all of its 66 years, since Grenda’s grandfather George started in buses in 1945.

"My grandmother used to make fruit cakes for all the employees at Christmas time and looking after the staff has been has been part of our culture ever since."

Ken also started the Grenda Foundation, which aims to help local organisations and causes where the company operates. It established the Homeless Youth Foundation in Dandenong and is now developing a bus for Diabetes Australia, that will enable people to have dialysis when they go on holidays to Wilson’s Promontory and Bairnsdale.

As well as the bonus, the family wanted to thank as many employees as possible in person and so has arranged a series of five nighttime visits to the company’s former depots, where they will put on a spit roast for the employees in each location.

New owner Ventura Buslines is right behind the project, Grenda says, supplying buses to help move people to and fro.

In fact, Grenda believes his family has done Ventura’s managing director Andrew Cornwall a nice turn. Not only will Grenda be handing over a very happy workforce, it seems the bonus scheme may well have also solved the bus driver shortage currently plaguing the industry.

"Today we have been inundated with requests from people wanting to work here so, if nothing else, we have done him a bloody big favor there," he says with a laugh.

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