CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

Personal trainers granted rent reprieve as Virgin Active closes clubs during SA shutdown

By Zukiswa Pikoli 26 March 2020

A Virgin Active gym in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the country would be put under a national shutdown to fight the coronavirus, Virgin Active is temporarily closing all clubs.

Daily Maverick received correspondence announcing that Virgin Active would close “all clubs effective as of close of business 24 March 2020, for the lockdown period of 21 days”.

Meanwhile, on Friday 20 March a Virgin Active personal trainer started a petition — which gathered more than 680 signatures — speaking out against what he and other personal trainers deemed as the exploitative expectations that trainers continue to pay 75% rental.

The personal trainers claimed that they have lost up to 90% of their clients as a result of restrictions imposed for the coronavirus outbreak. It is alleged that two-thirds of club members were no longer attending clubs in the gym franchise.

Daily Maverick contacted Virgin Active on Monday 23 March to find out if it was aware of the petition and whether it would provide comment. In addition to the closing of clubs, Virgin Active said:

“All memberships will automatically be frozen at no cost, and no fees will be due for the period of closure. Our tenants will not be required to pay us rent for this period, which includes personal trainers. We have furthermore made an app available to our personal trainers at no cost to allow them to offer their clients virtual workouts. We believe this to be an equitable solution despite our business receiving no subscription revenue during this period.”

The petition has subsequently been withdrawn with the following message to all who supported it:

“Although business is scheduled to resume as normal after 16 April 2020, and according to their most recent communication, Virgin Active has decided not to charge PTs (personal trainers) rent for the remainder of April. This means that PTs would be able to work for approximately two weeks in April, rent-free. This is extremely fair to all PTs considering that most PTs have suffered income losses in the month of March 2020. This relief could help somewhat balance the scales for all PTs.”

Thanks to President Ramaphosa’s announcement, personal trainers will no longer have to worry about paying rental while facing a loss of income as a result of client withdrawals. MC

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