Compass lays off over a dozen workers

| 31/03/2020 | 91 Comments

(CNS): Cayman’s only daily newspaper has laid off more than a dozen employees across the business, officials from the Cayman Compass said Monday. The layoffs include Caymanians as well as work permit holders, but the management declined to outline the ratio of workers. “We are all simply human,” the publisher told CNS.

In a press release, the Compass outlined the problems it is facing, exacerbated by the economic impact of the current coronavirus lockdown, especially on the print edition.

Like all news organisations the world over, it is struggling to remain viable in a social media world, which has upended the way many people receive and consume news. However, the paper has suffered even more during this lockdown as it has lost the cash stream from recruitment advertisements, which is mandated in law and has secured a reliable revenue source for the paper for years.

The Cayman Islands Government (CIG) had announced plans to remove the legal requirement that all employers must advertise job vacancies in print news before they can apply for a work permit, as it moved to focusing on the Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman (WORC) portal. But it has not yet removed that element of the immigration law.

However, the lockdown on business, which has stopped recruitment for an indefinite period, has killed that cash source, albeit temporarily.

It is still not clear who the real owners of the Compass are. While lawyer James Bergstrom was said to have acquired the paper and publishing house from the previous owners, David and Vickie Legge, just over one year ago, many in the community were never convinced that the Legges were the only, or even the actual, beneficial owners.

The paper has always maintained that it is independent and not influenced by any specific power source, though it has generally been seen as very close to and reflective of the government of the day, and even recently announced a collaboration with the CIG regarding video news.

But regardless of where its revenue has come from in the past, it is now tightening its belt, including making staff redundant. Responding to a CNS enquiry about the layoff details, Compass publisher Kathleen Capetta said the cuts were across the board and affected the entire workforce.

“The impact of these cuts on the individuals who lost their jobs is the same no matter what their immigration status is, and I urge the public to understand that today in this battle against the coronavirus and its economic turmoil here in Cayman we are all simply human,” she said.

“We are in this together on this island no matter what your passport says. Over the past 18 months we have made a great effort to make the Cayman Compass staff more reflective of the demographics of our community. To that end, there are more than twice the number of Caymanians on staff than work permit holders, many in senior leadership positions. Today’s cuts affected more than a dozen people, many of whom are Caymanian, all of whom are talented, wonderful people. We will not be sharing specific numbers as all employee matters are confidential,” she added.

In a release about the paper’s financial struggles, officials confirmed that it will only print the paper on Fridays and focus on the website and social media.

“The coronavirus pandemic has put our media business into life or death territory,” said Capetta. “Our choice is to change drastically or to close our doors. It is both costly and labour-intensive to deliver quality, unbiased and accurate journalism to a community every day.”

Meanwhile, the publisher said, the commercial printing arm of the company remains operational as well as a custom publishing and marketing division. It will also continue to publish some of its magazines.

The financial struggle for the paper to stay afloat follows the demise of Cayman’s only independent TV news channel, Cayman 27, which closed as a result of demands from OfReg for unsustainable fees. It was also a victim of the regulator’s failure to enforce the law regarding all cable companies’ requirement to produce and provide local content in order to maintain their licence.

While the Compass has its own unique financial battles to consider, independent reliable mainstream media is losing the battle around the world.

Social media has facilitated the spread of propaganda and fake news, which means that reputable journalism, which requires time-consuming fact checking, is losing ground to anecdotes, conspiracy theories and self-enforcing bubbles of opinion and misinformation.


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Comments (91)

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  1. Andrew says:

    I’ve seen this coming for year with the rise of Cayman News Service and other online news services. This was inevitable, the virus just sped the process up ten fold. From the price hike to the quality of the content, they’ve been fighting a downhill battle for years. News is so easily distributed nowadays, from messages on WhatsApp to just reading the headlines on Facebook posts all for free. The Compass, just like Blockbusters, will soon be lost to the digital age. Buy a copy now, just to have for the nostalgia.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    For those of you living in a freaking bubble:

    No private company in Cayman, responsible for paying large amounts, and many salaries can sustain under the current regime for the periods they are talking about.
    Outside of government (for now), You in the private sector will eventually lose your jobs along with whatever else your jobs pay for, and there will not be another equivalent job to take.

    So as you emotionally cheer these arsonists in power burning down the economy to ashes because they want no blame whatsoever for anyone getting sick on their watch, you really stop for a moment to consider that.

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  3. Christina says:

    Communication skills and expertise are much needed at this time. I hope that these professionals and assistants will be re-hired immediately, even if on a reduced salary. ANd we are undoubtedly in need of improved employee and employer protections and goodwill, and consumer protection legislation.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Much more complicated then that.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes if it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it’s a duck. I thought the real owner of the Compass was a super wealthy top lawyer with zero journalism publishing background. Who could have imagined that wouldnt work out? When i saw they were soliciting donations last week i thought, what about the super wealthy attorney owner? Why isnt he helping his staff? And now, after just 1 month of lockdown/etc, they collapse? Who is running that business? And if they think they’re going to get anywhere near the success of Marl Road and News Service (regardless of how we may or may not rate either of those really succesful news sites), the Compass people are living in dream land. That horse has bolted, nobody is taking on either of them.
    its a travesty for Cayman that we’ve lost our daily newspaper (sorry Ralph, but you’re not).
    Brian must be turning in his grave.
    This one seems to be a duck, a very large one.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Totally agree. Whilst not much $ the $100 for the heineken happy hour could at least buy food for these people. Think. Hmmm. AirBnB owners are contributing a lot of$$$ to hosts for lost revenue . On would think this new owner had some spare change too. Ugh!

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  6. Anonymous says:

    This is most unfortunate, especially to the staff, but sadly predictable. I bought the first copy of the “new” Compass and was most disappointed by its size, content, and price which was increased to .75c and $1.00 on a Friday. I stuck with it for a short time but stopped buying the Monday to Thursday editions but only took the Friday paper mainly because of Vicky Wheatom’s amusing articles! The crossword was small and needed a magnifying glass to complete, and the comics were intermittent. So the Compass lost one subscriber: I wonder how many others slowed their circulation down? The “old” Compass was a bit dull and predictable, but I and I am sure I and many others stuck with it in spite of its right-wing bias latterly. This present crisis has just hastened an inevitable outcome imho. Good luck and best wishes to the staff who,are now without jobs: as Donald Trump would say, it’s not your fault.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    First the local TV is bought by unknowns and then is shut down so it cant broadcast ANY bad news about certain people. Now the Compass is bought by “James Bergstrom” who is supposed to be a very successful lawyer and was partner at a very big law firm, and he is now laying off staff.

    Two big local news outlets being shut down? Why? Who benefits?

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  8. Anonymous says:

    “…,whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The Compass owners/management will understand this clearly now. Sorry for those now without jobs in this difficult time.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    “Cayman Compass is the Cayman Islands’ most trusted news website”. I often wondered how they made that claim or perhaps it was a case of presenting opinion as fact. While it would be sad to see it go it is not what it used to be at all. It used to be a ‘must have’ along with a pattie and orange juice for breakfast.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Just like radio stations can claim to be number 1 but no one will ever know because any form of ratings doesn’t exist here.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    The news reports and line of questioning from Compass “journalists” are both simply abysmal these days. The inexperience is clear with Compass representatives at the daily press briefings.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    This is disgraceful. They have had a cash cow of work permit advertisements for years. And, in 2 weeks the go bust?

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    • Anonymous says:

      exactly!not to mention the million plus government spends on adds each year! They should be shut down completely and staff well compensated. Its just disgusting how they operate, people only buy the compass for the job ads nowadays.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    The Compass has been in financial problems for months and has been steadily losing staff or making staff redundant while taking on the Cayman 27 staff. The inexperience of the new management, poor leadership, and bad financial decisions also lead them to this point. Coronavirus put the nail in their coffin.
    Expats have been speared and make up the majority of the management team now.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Wrong. Labour Law s.51.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Social media should not be the real issue as anyone who believes that stuff is not wise. It is more that such media houses need to move away from paper to online content and figure out how to profit from it.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    I’m very sorry for all the employees who have lost their jobs. The owner of the Compass should be ashamed of himself. Then again I’m not sure he is capable of it. I couldn’t believe he had the audacity to solicit donations to support the Compass and local journalism in this time of need like it’s PBS or Wikipedia and not a private business. I feel sorry for anyone who donated and thought it would make any sort of difference to the employees.

    It has barely been two weeks into this crisis and he’s already eliminating jobs. At a time when this country needs robust local news coverage more than ever. Many other business owners, no doubt with much, much less money in the bank, are at least willing to give it some more time and trying their best to keep their employees employed as long as they can.

    Disgraceful.

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    • Anonymous says:

      CNS has been soliciting contributions for months. What’s the difference?

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      • Anonymous says:

        CNS wasn’t bought by a super wealthy attorney and let collapse…

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        • #badtimingjamesbergstrom says:

          Exactly. CNS is a very small business. I don’t work for them or have family there but you can basically see it’s a very small company trying to survive. I noticed CNS wasn’t in person at the briefings why? Because clearly they don’t have the bodies to be everywhere, but was still submitting questions remotely.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    I’m Caymanian born and bred and attended school here until my early teens in the early 1970s then I completed my education overseas. I recall Childrens’ Own magazine, I think it was an insert in The Gleaner one day a week As far as I recall, we had it in our schools. In any case, I had it in my home because my father brought home The Gleaner every day – these were the days before Caymanian Weekly (Compass’ foreunner), Miami Herald and others. For print news it was The Gleaner or Cayman’s own Gospel of the Kingdom from Bro. Will T. Bodden – a mix of local news and gospel writings.

    Nonetheless, Children’s Own was another beneficial tool in the education of our children in those days. There was also an UN magazine published under UNESCO which was geared to schoolchildren – it carried world news and current affairs.

    Overall, our education system was better then and the evidence is clear. Apart from good academics we had 4H Clubs, Arbour Day (a day dedicated to the planting of trees) and the Common Entrance Exam which had to be passed before one could move up to high school! Now, kids are advanced simply by age and then graduated without learning to read and write properly!!

    How is that progress??!!

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  17. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully this will not mean the death of the Compass, but like many local businesses it will be a tough road back. Over the past few years, print media around the world has suffered at the hands of new technology – online and social media. So, the Compass may have already had a challenge to survive – coronavirus measures have only exacerbated it.

    What is of a greater significance, however is that we have lost daily local news TV and now, perhaps our largest print media (for a while) within a year. That is not a good position for any community, despite the social media and online sources.

    Hopefully the Compass will survive and return to its hardcopy format. Best wishes.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    You haven’t seen anything yet. You think this “pandemic” is bad? You think this flu is really really really bad?

    You think the pandemic CURVE, is the only curve that is exponential? No, the financial destruction curve is just as exponential except downwards. And unlike the flu, the economy has not immune system. When it crashes as all indications show that it will, its going to need life support, and so will thousands of people that were otherwise financially sustaining.

    Wait until the THOUSANDS of Caymanians will be out of work, out of money, out of business, out of savings, no more cash for education, out of money to care for their parents and family members. I don’t think the government has any realistic idea of the devastation they will be directly causing as compared to what the “pandemic” will actually cause. They have some laxydaisy view of this based on what is being said. How dare people think of the ‘livelihood’ above this flu they say…

    Great you will be able to say “No one can blame us for people getting sick!” True, but heed this: They WILL blame you for losing their ENTIRE livelihood and this financial DEVASTATION.

    And when this happen because IT WILL if we stay on this course, you then ask those people, Would have rather gotten the flu, or lose everything you had?! Hmmm?

    Let’s see how this plays out in the next month or two financially and politically ….

    Let’s see how CNS fares with no cash in the next couple months because businesses can’t pay for bills, never mind adverting.

    What would be proposes is to lead by example! To show the public that all decisions are made with the best possible consideration of everyone’s interests:

    ALL MLA’s, and ALL civil service that are at home, GO WITHOUT PAY until this crisis is over. the laying off should start at non essential government, and MLAs taking a fat salary from the restricted financial resources we are facing.

    No Financial considerations should be taken above this “pandemic”? FINE put your damn money where your demands of OTHERS are!

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    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t agree that this pandemic is equivalent to the flu. It is much more serious. And I do think the government is doing the right thing in the short term in imposing the curfew. That said, I agree that at a certain point, probably no later than the end of the month or six weeks from now, we will have no choice other than to relax these restrictions and allow people to return to work and all businesses to operate. Regardless of whether we have cases in the community and regardless of the situation in the US. Because the damage to the economy is indeed building and as callous as it sounds, at some point you have to do a cost/benefit analysis and accept that, say, 50 people might die from this who otherwise wouldn’t have died, but those lives are an acceptable trade-off when weighed against the collapse of society and having thousands in poverty because they have no way to earn money. We might not be able to open the borders for a few months, but we have to let local businesses operate.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t mind him; his brain is clouded by Sean Hannity. Their ilk seem to think if we just let the coronavirus rip through the world and let millions die, it would allow them to go back to doing what they do best, to fulfil their destiny of making lots of money and thereby contributing to the greater good through “trickle down” hocus pocus. There’s an old saying among American Republicans that suggests that a “good war” is always good for business. They’re now worried, however, that a good pandemic isn’t good for business. It’s also not going to be good for greed – unless weaponized.

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    • Anonymous says:

      everywhere else in the world their leaders are trying to tackle the health and economic crisis…..here we have alden saying ‘its time to hunker down and people are welcome to leave’……
      cayman is doomed and so is anywhere without a functioning economy.

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    • Anonymous says:

      its not a flu, its a corona virus, 2 completely different viruses, that’s like calling a spider, an elephant.
      We all have some immunity to nearly all human influenca viruses, but we don’t have immunity to COVID-19, which with the fact it over 2 times more contagious than the flu make it far more serious.

      All governments had a choice, keep on going and accept that a large number of people will die (1-2% of population), so in US 3-6million people, in Cayman maybe 1,000.

      or they ould go lock down and try and stop more people from catching the virus, thus stopping it or delaying it enough that we find a valid treatment or working anti-viral.

      Each would have a large economic and political cost.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly. Unfortunately few understand that. Including Premier. They think that virus is the problem and go nuts about it.

      Once Skilled, educated and experienced staff leaves, and thousands have left already, virus and supermarkets lines would be the least of Cayman problems.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Actually, the Compass is NOT the only daily paper as the Caymanian Times also prints daily.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Does Cayman law require that Work Permit holders are made redundant first?

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    • Anonymous says:

      No and it shouldn’t.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It depends on the job, i.e. if I’ve got two expat bomb disposal techncians and two Caymanian bomb makers and I cut my staff by half I lay off one of each, regardless of nationality.

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      • Anonymous says:

        That business is destined to bomb.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Not so, it was stated that there is a pecking order in the Immigration Law that requires the work permit holders to be laid off first. If not the Caymanians can claim unfair dismissal. This was explained recently by a former Labour Appeal Tribunal member.

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        • Anonymous says:

          depends on the position..if the expat is the reporter and the cleaner is the Caymanian, the cleaner can’t do the reporters job…well without some training…:)

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      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry 3:35 p.m. I just read over your post. Yes, that is correct in this instance as long as expats are not filling the same post as the Caymanians.

      • Anonymous says:

        And if you had one expat bomb disposal technician and one Caymanian one, which do you let go?

    • Anonymous says:

      So if you have a foreign doctor and his secretary is a local, the doctor has to be laid off first, is that what you are saying 2.40..?

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    • Foreignor says:

      In every country it should be the native people of that country first. So, yes, work permit holders should be the first laid off.

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    • Anonymous says:

      No it does not and with the airport closed, Caymanians can get other jobs or casual work, work permit holders cannot + the company has already paid for there permit till the next renewal. Work permit holders often have no other family here and no support like locals. Best advice for company’s keep the best people who can help your company survive no matter where they are from. When you are properly running you have the best chance to re-employ everyone.
      Tough times for everyone, stay safe Cayman.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Your best advice will place those that follow it in breach of the law, and render them liable to revocation of their business licenses and work permits.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well we certainly will be losing a lot of doctors and medical support staff if work permit holders are made redundant first. Won’t that be wonderful with a health crisis?

      But relax, we will still have John John.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yes it does, for example if you have 5 janitors at an establishment 1 Caymanian, 1 Permanent Resident and 3 on work permits and you need to make redundant 2 persons. If the Caymanian and Permanent Resident are made redundant, then they can claim unfair dismissal as they should be made redundant in pecking order as set out in the Immigration Law. Re. statement made by partner in a local law firm.

    • Anonymous says:

      No. Just the pirate code.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I am very sad to see the end of the Compass, and really the end of print journalism. As a child growing up one of the things that I looked forward to was getting the daily newspaper so that I could read, do the crossword puzzles, read the cartoons and generally just read what opinion writers had to say. As a child growing up in Jamaica, reading the newspapers was a way for our teachers to teach us general knowledge and this is something that has stayed with me during all my years.

    One of my favourite things to do when I travelled was to purchase newspapers in my host country, Cayman being no exception, as that was a way to know the pulse of the nation. In Jamaica, I recall we had a newspaper called the Children’s Own and it featured articles from children and it was something that every child looked forward to in Jamaica. What it taught us to do was to think, and how to write.

    I understand the call of social media and the call for journalism to be of the people, but when you look at certain areas of our life and read the comments section, you can tell that what we need is a return to having newspapers in our schools as a way to teach our children how to read and write.

    Perhaps if the Compass had partnered with our schools by publishing CXC/GSAT/SAT materials for those who can’t afford it, that would not only be an income revenue but would also assist our children who can’t afford books or who do not have internet access at home.

    The dearth of newspapers in this jurisdiction is not a good thing. I know that there is still the Caymanian Times, but the Compass needs to stay afloat and perhaps if it goes to a subscription based service, maybe that will not only keep the doors open but help to keep employees.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Minor typo CNS….

    (CNS: Thank you!)

    Regardless though, this is sad news.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    “Social media has facilitated the spread of propaganda and fake news, which means that reputable journalism, which requires time-consuming fact checking, is losing ground to anecdotes, conspiracy theories and self-enforcing bubbles of opinion and misinformation.”

    That’s a bit desperate. Only yesterday, “reputable” CBS news were caught palming off footage from Italy as footage from New York.

    But let’s not let the truth get in the way of a sensationalistic story, shall we?

    If people cannot get the truth from corrupt newshouses, then they will seek it out from alternative means.

    There is a huge difference between truth and agenda. At the end of the day, people just want truth. If truth does not meet your agenda, does it automatically become a “conspiracy theory” concocted by a nutcase in a tin-foil hat? Apparently so.

    Agenda-driven media houses will ultimately end up devouring themselves and failing.

    CNS: Exhibit A.

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    • Anonymous says:

      NYC might as well be Italy today as one patient is dying every 3 minutes in NYC hospitals. The situation is disastrous in NYC and if people don’t start social distancing in places like Florida soon, the virus will soon be in our neighbourhood.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Might as well be. What the hell is that?

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        • Anonymous says:

          Obviously the poster is comparing the two because nyc is now at the point of no control and it’s sad to just watch person after person die because there aren’t enough beds…. ventilators…. etc etc

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  24. Anonymous says:

    A source for “quality, unbiased and accurate journalism“ proved to have been their Waterloo for readership months/years before Covid. Selling out as unabashed pro-Unity/Dart lobbyists was their mistake. Few will pay to stomach that BS anymore, Unfortunate for those that had hitched their wagon to that team.

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  25. Anonymous says:

    That last paragraph… well said. Cayman Marl Road as a prime example!

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  26. Anonymous says:

    sign of the times and a classic example of cig just letting a business go to the wall. but why would a government want to save a newspaper?

    compass dug its own grave when it stopped doing editorials last year….it became a waste of paper at that stage as it bent its knee to cig.
    and that same cig will gladly watch you go out of business.

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  27. Anonymous says:

    A beneficial ownership register would unveil who the real owners are. Perhaps that’s why the politicians are not in favour of it.

    This lockdown has only been for a couple of weeks. So please don’t try to use that as an excuse to over up poor business practices and mismanagement.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The trouble is under cayman labor law, if you are paid monthly you have a months paid notice period + severence pay 1 week for each year. So any company who wants to survive and does not have tons of cash needs to fire people now, accept the 1 months notice with no funds coming in then pay severence after that if they use the tempory termination ohterwise its all payable end of april.
      Who can afford to pay staff who cant work remotly 2-3 or more months with out any income. (law and accounting maybe)
      If staff are let go the costs are relieved but its very hard either way.

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    • Chrid Johnson says:

      Why not just pop down to the registered office and ask for a copy of the Register of Shareholders. You are entitled to that under the Companies Law. There might be some nominee shareholders but it is a start.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Who owns the Compass?

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  29. Anonymous says:

    So sorry for all those employees that lost their jobs, at this terrible time.

    They can’t even go find a job somewhere else, because nowhere is hiring. Sad times.

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