About 9,000 Fletcher Building staff have been given little more than 24 hours to decide whether to accept pay cuts of up to 70 per cent over the next 12 weeks, a move widely condemned by unions and staff.
It’s aimed at preserving cash and reducing costs as operations at one of New Zealand’s biggest companies are put on hold under the Government lockdown to supress Covid-19.
About 10 per cent of Fletchers’ 10,000 strong workforce is still working during the four-week lockdown.They will continue to get paid, but for the vast majority not working Fletchers plans to slash their pay in four-weekly increments by 20 per cent, then 50 per cent and finally 70 per cent. All senior executives still working will take a 15 per cent pay cut. Fletchers has applied for Government’s wage subsidy and is passing it on to all affected employees.
Staff were sent the wage cut proposal yesterday morning and had been given until 5pm today to sign it.
Nowhere in the proposal does Fletchers outline what the consequence are if staff do not sign.
One staff member who wants to remain anonymous told 1 NEWS the company is “bullying” and “railroading” workers to accept the cuts. She said she was “disappointed” in Fletchers when other companies are looking after staff.
“They’re taking advantage of people feeling vulnerable,” the anonymous staffer said.
A Wellington employment lawyer Steph Dyhrberg called the tight consultation time frame a “remarkably short period for such a significant decision.”
She expected it would be a struggle for people to seek advice given the pressure employment lawyers are under right now. And she pointed to the forceful language Fletchers used in the proposal, saying it “doesn’t feel like [staff] have a lot of choice”.
Multiple unions have condemned Fletchers actions and taken the matter up with Finance Minister Grant Robertson and the Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway.
Last year, Fletcher Building posted a $164 million profit in the year to June 30.
Under the Government subsidy scheme Fletchers must make their “best endeavours” to pay 80 per cent of wages. But given last year’s profit First Union is questioning why the company can’t pay 80 per cent of wages.
“It’s a dereliction of duty from a company who’ve grown and profited from their relationship with Government and involvement in significant infrastructural projects,” said First Union’s Jared Abbot.
Fletchers said the consultation period was so short due to the “rapidly evolving situation".