After backlash, Countdown agrees to pay 10% bonus to staff hired during lockdown

Countdown has this afternoon clarified its position on bonus pay for staff who worked during the month-long Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

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Some were expecting an additional 10 per cent bonus yesterday, but the business is blaming miscommunication. Source: 1 NEWS

Dozens of staff have told 1 NEWS they were told they would be getting the 10 per cent bonus on their paycheck but that decision was reversed yesterday.

One worker, who doesn’t want to be identified, says a manager told some workers they weren’t eligible for bonus pay just hours before they were due to be paid.

“We were told from the beginning, since we've been hired, that we would be eligible for that 10 per cent bonus,” the worker says.

Countdown staff to get lockdown pay boost, specials returning to shelves for shoppers

“Just the same as everyone else we were working with."

The worker was one of dozens of people employed on fixed-term contracts in early March as a Countdown measure to cope with steeply increasing demand brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

She says senior staff regularly talked about the impending bonus payment and she felt it encouraged staff to keep working hard. 

“It was referred as a thank you and a recognition of the effort we were putting in,” she says. “For driving to work and working through lockdown when people may not have chosen to."

So it was a shock to dozens of workers to find out they had been excluded from bonus pay because they had been hired after March 1st.

First Union, which represents supermarket and distribution workers, describes the decision as ‘cruel’ and immediately sought answers from Countdown yesterday afternoon.

“It’s basically a case of financial disadvantage and we advised the company in an email yesterday that this is a risk for them,” Tali Williams of First Union says. “They need to fix it, they need to pay these workers the 10 per cent.”

One worker told 1 NEWS some staff members she spoke to had been counting on receiving the extra money as they had lost their jobs due to Covid-19. She said some had even spent it.

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Countdown stopped worker bonuses earlier this week, with New World and Pak'nSave following suit when the country enters Alert Level 3. Source: 1 NEWS

Late this afternoon, Countdown issued a statement saying the bonus payment would now be made to all workers.

Corporate Affairs Manager Kiri Hannifin says its bonus policy was "developed in the thick of the crisis and did originally exclude new team members who joined after the 1st of March".

Last week, however, Ms Hannifin says Countdown reviewed the policy and decided to include these team members and this will be communicated and processed this coming week.

“We couldn’t capture them in the pay round that went through last night, regrettably,” Ms Hannifin says.

The good news was well received by Countdown workers who thought they had missed out – one of them telling 1 NEWS it was "correct to recognise the hard work everyone’s put in”.

Some workers say the bonus pay will amount to around $200, which will be an enormous help to their households.