First Union has slammed The Warehouse today, suggesing the company is using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to lay off hundreds of staff.
In a statement this morning, The Warehouse chief executive Pejman Okhovat said the proposed changes, if implemented, would see a reduction of up to 320 full time equivalent roles or between 500 and 750 team members if part time, fixed term and casual roles are included.
Union general secretary Dennis Maga said the company had been reviewing its business for years and that "the pandemic has accelerated their progress on an ‘agile’ system that means workers lose out, communities lose jobs, and customers get a worse experience shopping there".
"Unfortunately, The Warehouse have done the disappointing thing and used Covid-19 to justify a bunch of operational business decisions that will leave hundreds of workers without jobs and thousands more with significant reductions to their incomes."
A worker who wished to remain anonymous added in the union statement: "This isn’t about Covid. This isn’t about efficiency, or what’s good for staff, or even what’s best for the customer experience.
"The only ones who benefit from this restructure are the executives at the top who already take home obscene salaries.
"Don’t buy the idea that they have to do this, or it’s the result of Covid alone, or a savvy business decision - they just want more money, and we’re the ones paying for it."
Staff attended a meeting at 8am today to discuss the changes, with stores opening at the later time of 9am as a result.
"The restructure includes sweeping reductions of hours across the country that are left to individual store managers to find and cut, as well as hundreds of job losses and the closure of physical stores," Mr Maga said.
He said First Union delegates would continue to engage with executives of The Warehouse and challenge the business model as it is implemented around the country.
"This can’t be the standard we accept as a country from big businesses during Covid or our recovery and resilience as a nation is in jeopardy," Mr Maga said.
"Businesses have to share the burden of a financial downturn and they have to accept that some stores won’t do as well as others after a nationwide lockdown, especially when they own 92 of them and measure their success as a single entity."
However, Okhovat said the proposal was separate to the three proposed store closures for The Warehouse stores at Dunedin Central, Johnsonville and Whangaparāoa. Its Dunedin Central store will also be closed to customers but will remain in use as an online fulfillment centre.
"While there may be a reduction in roles, there will not be any reduction in team member pay, with all The Warehouse team members soon to receive another wage increase under the collective agreement signed last year to move team members to the living wage," Okhovat said.
"As we are proposing a change of rostered hours for these team members, we have now entered into formal consultation. Throughout this phase, team members have the opportunity to submit their availability through an online app and express if they are interested in voluntary redundancy."