Warehouse job cuts: 33 Northland staff made redundant; union may challenge decision

A union isn’t ruling out legally challenging a decision by The Warehouse to make 33 workers in Northland redundant as part of a proposed restructure.

First Union said the country’s largest listed retailer has confirmed 10 workers in its Whangārei branch, and the rest in Kaikohe, Kaitaia, Waipapa and Dargaville have lost their jobs since July.

The job losses come at a time when its group chief executive Nick Grayston pocketed an extra $1.4 million in the 2020 financial year, according to the company’s annual report.

About 600 people, including the 33 staff in Northland, will lose their jobs throughout The Warehouse stores nationwide as it moves towards an agile business model.

At the same time, Flight Centre has closed two branches in Northland and is closing a third at the end of this month, but the company is tightlipped on the number of job losses.

Gary Hetherington, of First Union representing, The Warehouse workers, said he was looking at a number of cases where employers hadn’t followed the relevant laws during the restructure process.

He said raising a personal grievance with the Employment Relations Authority over the 33 redundancies was very much on the cards as the union felt The Warehouse had used Covid as an excuse to lay off workers.

“That’s 36 households that have to now make sure mortgage payments are met. The 36 includes a couple from Waipapa and that’s a debilitating blow to a small area.

“We as a union will do additional follow-ups to ensure their selection was fair because there’s a lot of confusion around who stays and who goes, plus we are still dealing with individual contracts regarding new roster hours.

“All the way through this restructure, we don’t believe a slump in sales has been the reason for the redundancies. The business may have had a slump in profit but spending picked up after the lockdown.”

Hetherington said The Warehouse group was still making a sizeable profit and its subsidiary Noel Leeming made a record profit.

The Warehouse group posted sales revenue of $3.2 billion in the year. Noel Leeming surpassed $1b revenue in the year, and Warehouse Stationery also had a record year.

Hetherington said the union has received Government funding to employ two people on fixed-term contracts to help redundant workers, including finding them alternative jobs.

A spokeswoman said while the company was never happy to make changes that might affect people’s roles, their store rosters had not changed for many years.

“Over time we have found more customers choosing to shop at nights and weekends, and more customers shopping online and using Click&Collect.”

Since June, she said The Warehouse had worked closely with First Union and store team members to understand their rostered hours availability at each store, discussed how customer shopping habits were changing and how to best adapt.

In some cases where team members hadn’t accepted available shift patterns, she said there were vacancies available.

Flight Centre in Kaitaia closed in June. The remaining store on Cameron St in Whangārei will close at the end of this month.

The company will cut 160 jobs and close 23 stores around New Zealand.

It applied for and received $6.5 million in wage subsidy for 940 employees, nearly $4m for 850 staff in the wage subsidy extension payment, and a further $656,324 in the resurgence wage subsidy — a two-week payment, available between August 21 andSeptember 3 for employers who weren’t already getting a wage subsidy.

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