Complaints pour into union from low paid staff alleging more big NZ retailers are forcing them to work unpaid overtime

A huge influx of complaints to unions from Kiwi retail workers claiming they regularly performed unpaid overtime has landed a hoard of new high-profile businesses under scrutiny.

An online survey from FIRST Union has received 1500 responses from retail workers over the last 48 hours - 30 per cent of which claim they have been required by their employer to work without pay - whether it be for a meeting, or end of shift tasks.

The union says it contacted several major brands they are investigating worker complaints about, including: The Warehouse, Briscoes, Countdown, Cotton On, Rebel Sports and Farmers.

The online survey from FIRST Union comes in the wake of a court ruling last week forcing Smiths City to back pay 15 years of unpaid morning meetings the retail workers had to attend.

And yesterday, footwear chain Hannahs admitted staff aren't paid for overtime after stores close, while Briscoes' boss doesn't know how many of his employees historically haven't been paid for the last 15 minutes of their shifts each day.

FIRST Union, who is gathering the complaints, says they are continuing to come in both in the online survey and through their 0800 number.

They say the complaints are coming in from union and non-union members in retail who allege their respective companies have been expecting, and in some instances asking verbally and in writing, employees to either stay back and work late for tasks such as cashing up or tidying up the shop, or for work-related meetings for the purposes of customer and sales training.

The complaints made to First Union - in addition to Briscoes, Hannahs and Smiths City - have also been made against other big Kiwi retailers.

FIRST Union says they have been in contact with all new retail businesses who have had complaints filed against them. 

Countdown has confirmed to 1 NEWS they were contacted by FIRST Union this morning, however Countdown say it was only to inform them a survey across a number of retail employers including Countdown had been undertaken.

"No specific complaints as to our business were provided in their note to us so we are unable to take any immediate action to looking in to any concerns," a Countdown spokesperson said.

However, the Foodstuffs cooperative that owns Pak'nSave denied they had been contacted by FIRST Union, and media spokesperson for the company Antoinette Laird reaffirmed it was their "practice is to pay staff from when they clock in until when they clock out".

The Warehouse said they are not aware of instances of staff working unpaid hours.

"We have asked the Union for details regarding the allegations being made. If our team members do have concerns and raise them with us we will investigate," Warehouse Group PM Manager Sarah Leaning said.

Cotton Group New Zealand country manager Kerry Ashford said they are now undertaking a full enquiry into their workplace policies after being contacted by FIRST Union.

"Upon being made aware of the concerns about workplace hours, a full enquiry has been launched to ensure our workplace policies are being adhered to," Ms Ashford said.

1 NEWS is also attempting to contact other businesses on First Union's list, businesses which 1 NEWS cannot yet name.

Retail, Finance and Commerce Secretary Tali Williams says the companies involved vary drastically in how widespread the problem is within their company.

"For some, it's simply a rogue issue with one supervisor or manager not being aware that they are breaking the law, for others it's a systemic issue throughout company stores nationally," Ms Williams said.

"We will work with companies to ensure employees are not asked to work without pay."

Ms Williams says companies who welcome this support from FIRST Union will see no further action, but those who don't may face legal disputes.

"Those who do not comply with the law may face legal action from our members who feel they have been short-changed," she said.

"If someone is on minimum wage it effectively means they're not only being paid below the minimum wage, but are missing out on around $800 a year, so this is a big issue for these workers."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden also confirmed they had received a 15 per cent increase in call volume since the since the court ruling on Smiths City last week.

"We will be taking the complaints which come to us in the coming days and talking to industry associations and large employers to get them to fix these practices, and where applicable, to pay any arrears owed," Mr Lumsden said.

"The Labour Inspectorate has come across these issues in the past – and it's been for a range of activities, including cleaning equipment after closing the shop, sales meetings before opening, shift hand overs, or health and safety inductions."

1 NEWS contacted many of the companies today and of those who got back emphasised that staff are paid for all their time and if system errors are found, workers will be reimbursed.

Hannahs and Briscoes. Source: rnz.co.nz



Young NZ fur seal found with fishing line round neck is treated at Auckland Zoo

A young New Zealand fur seal is being treated for infection at Auckland Zoo after being found slumped on a rock ledge at Piha with discarded fishing line around its neck.

A young woman had spotted the injured seal and Department of Conservation rangers responded, DOC ranger Gabrielle Goodin told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

"Literally when we got out there I saw the seal and it was over this little rock ledge and I thought it was dead," Ms Goodin said.

Auckland Zoo vet Lydia Uddstrom said the fishing line has no give, so as the seal grows with it around the neck, the line cuts deeper and deeper.

"It's not a simple matter of cut the nylon off and just chuck him back out and good luck to you. It's really that follow up and making sure that we can control any infection," Ms Uddstrom said.

The vets work in silence, trying to keep the young seal as calm as possible while treating it at the zoo.

The case is a reminder of how a little piece of human waste can cause such pain to an innocent victim.

Fur seals are a conservation success story, with their numbers up.

But so is human interaction with them.

"We have a high population in Auckland, so it's managing that success. How can we make sure we still see a lot of seals, people are interacting with them properly and we can keep them from being injured from things like fishing lines," Ms Goodin said. 

Things are looking good for the young fur seal which has been showing improvement.

"We are hopeful that if we can get on top of this infection and everything else that's going on, he should be able to get out there where he belongs," Ms Uddstrom said.

Seven Sharp’s Lucas de Jong visited the mammal at the zoo. Source: Seven Sharp

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John Armstrong: As Labour fast loses the plot, Sunday's moment of coalition unity was priceless

There’s no show without punch, and although Winston Peters did not say much, he said enough. Unlike the Prime Minister who was something of a disappointment.

Last Sunday’s carefully stage-managed display of unity by Jacinda Ardern and her deputy was not so much a case of fake news as one of fabricated news.

It was somehow befitting of the barmy politics emanating daily from the Government benches in Parliament that the coalition Government should half-celebrate its 12-month birthday having been in the job for just on 11 months.

A carefully-chosen audience was corralled on Auckland’s AUT campus to hear — or rather endure — Ardern taking close to half-an-hour to spell out her Government’s 12 priorities.

1 NEWS' Jessica Mutch and Benedict Collins give their opinions of the Acting Prime Minister who ran the country during Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave.
Winston Peters. Source: 1 NEWS

Admittedly, it is difficult to inject excitement into a discussion of the virtues of intended alterations to the structure of the various Cabinet committees which meet weekly in the Beehive.

But one further priority would be finding a new speech writer for the Prime Minister before someone falls asleep and drowns in the verbiage. Or simply dies of boredom.

The said wordsmith's job is probably safe, however. The strict instruction from upon high would have been not to include the merest morsel of anything that those listening might find interesting — and which would detract from the whole purpose of the occasion, specifically the need for the Government to project an image as rock solid unified.

The political pantomime had one overriding objective — convincing an increasingly sceptical public that although Ardern and Peters might not always be on the same page, they are still capable of trading smiles on the same platform after 11 months of jostling one another.

While the Labour-New Zealand coalition has witnessed sporadic bouts of internal guerrilla warfare in recent times and principally on New Zealand First’s part, it is vastly over-dramatising things to suggest this so far occasional rebellion could become full-blown civil war.

So there was no chance of Peters going AWOL last Sunday. It would, however, have helped the coalition’s cause considerably had he uttered the immortal words "of course she's driving the car" during the earlier stages of the developing friction between the partners in Government. He was unwilling on Sunday to stretch the metaphor any further. But when it comes to back-seat driving or driving backwards, Peters is a master.

He has not taken on board any perceivable role as a back-room fixer for the coalition despite such a role having the capacity to alleviate some of the huge pressures weighing on Ardern’s shoulders.

He has instead exploited her inexperience as Labour’s leader and the fact that she spreads herself thin to bolster his party’s leverage within the coalition.

It is such game-play good that threatens the Government’s stability. It is not so much that the partners might clash over policy. As Ardern repeatedly notes, the coalition comprises three parties. There is always going to be disagreement over policy.

What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships - John Armstrong

What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships; whether, to use the parlance, they act on the basis of good faith and no surprises.

Ardern’s response to suggestions of disunity is to pretend there is none when she is so questioned. That is not credible.

She has now sought to brush off those claims made by her opponents by creating a distraction through repackaging her party’s priorities and relaunching them as a "coalition blueprint" under the title of Our Plan.

It would not have taken Labour’s spin-doctors long to dream up that title. It is the exact same one as used by National during the John Key-Bill English years in their similar quest to turn New Zealand into Utopia.

The only difference between Labour’s and National’s respective efforts was that Key was dismissive of such "vision documents". They might be useful in listing goals. They rarely provide detail of the means to be adopted to reach those goals. The day-to-day pressures of political life inevitably result in the prime minister of the day focusing heavily on short-term political management. Concentrating on the long-term can always be postponed to another day.

National’s various versions of vision have accordingly sunk without trace. That experience would have been a factor in Simon Bridges’ acidic observation that there was nothing in the long list of platitudes, banalities and truisms in Ardern’s blueprint which he would find hard to swallow. He isn’t wrong.

The producers of Ardern’s massive missive may have feared the same fate awaits their product as afflicted National’s equally turgid equivalent, creation.

That hurts. But Bridges is making the pertinent point that Ardern’s claim that her plan amounts to a "shared vision" of the three parties in her governing arrangement is utterly meaningless.

All it says is that the three-party grouping stretches so far across the political system that National can be accommodated with room to spare.

That makes it hard to keep the whole show on the road at the best of times.

With ministers falling like nine-pins, bureaucrats thinking nothing of splashing out $1.5 million on a justice policy summit and private consultants growing fat on the tidy sums to be made from servicing the plethora of working parties and task forces doing the work that career public servants are arguably better left to do, Labour is fast losing the plot.

But never mind. Ardern and her colleagues got what they wanted. That was a minute or two of coalition unity at the top of the six o’clock news. Given Labour’s growing malaise, that’s priceless.

The Prime Minister gave details of the Government plan during a speech in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS

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Man arrested after fatal stabbing in Upper Hutt

A man has been arrested following a man's death in Upper Hutt this afternoon after being stabbed.

Police have launched a homicide investigation.

Emergency services were called a scene on Golders Road in Upper Hutt shortly after 4:30pm and despite their best efforts to revive the victim, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police arrested a male nearby the scene of the assault and are currently speaking with him.

"There is not thought to be any risk to the public at this time, however the Police investigation into what happened continues," Detective Senior Sergeant Martin said.

Police car Source: 1 NEWS


The Hastings' Four Square that sold four winning first division Lotto tickets

Hastings was the lucky home to four winning first division Lotto tickets last night.

Flaxmere's Scott Drive Four Square was the winning shop and TVNZ1's Seven Sharp meet with the owner.

"We have five first division winners in Flaxmere, and we have got four of them," owner Becky Gee said.

"Usually one shop gets one but one shop got four, unbelievable."

Last night there were 40 first division winners, who each get $25,000.

Ms Gee says she doesn’t know who the winners were yet, but says hopefully she’ll find out soon.

"Hopefully it’ll go to people who need it, to pay a lot of bills."

Lotto confirmed that one person purchased four of the winning tickets, which means they take home $100,000.

It turns out Scott Drive Four Square is where to buy a winning ticket. Source: Seven Sharp