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Warehouse Using Covid For Cover As Extensive Restructure Makes Everyone Worse Off

(FIRST Union comments on The Warehouse consultation and proposed restructure)

"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," said Dennis Maga, FIRST Union General Secretary.

"They’ve been reviewing their business for years and 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."

"The Warehouse held an extensive consultation process after sustained pressure from union delegates and then went ahead and did everything they’d already decided after listening well and engaging with workers, who brought ideas to the table and generally felt the discussions were meaningful."

"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."

One worker, who wished to remain anonymous due to the company’s restrictive media policy, said they and their colleagues were questioning the rationale behind the decision.

"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," they said.

"We all knew what was going to happen with Covid hit because we could feel it already in our stores - the Warehouse has changed over the last few years, and unfortunately not for the better."

"They want those big, empty, Walmart-style actual warehouses where you don’t talk to anyone and the product magically appears on the shelves: doesn’t matter how, just get it out, doesn’t matter if people need help finding stuff or getting information, just move more units."

"I can tell you from years on the floor that it doesn’t work like that because this isn’t America, and people don’t shop like that in New Zealand, even in a place like the Warehouse that sells bulk and bargain goods."

"I’m already doing two peoples’ jobs and lots of colleagues are near breaking point. There aren’t enough of us on the floor to deal with customers and upper management are demanding more and more even when we’re up double on last year at my store."

"The biggest thing is that most Warehouse workers I know live fortnight to fortnight, so even if you don’t lose your job, losing even a couple of hours from your roster can be huge for your family."

"It’s a dangerous path - customers are getting more and more frustrated and abusive this year, and I’m worried that this is going to get worse, especially if we’re dealing with future waves of the pandemic and are understaffed and unprepared."

"I think there’s been so much emphasis on what ‘the business’ overall needs that the company has forgotten they’re members of their communities, and ‘bricks and mortar’ shops that employ people."

"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."

Dennis Maga said FIRST Union delegates would continue to engage with Warehouse executives and challenge the business model as it is implemented around the country. He said workers had welcomed the cooperation between the company and the union during the consultation process but warned further challenges lay ahead.

"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," said Mr Maga.

"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."

"Their survival as a company is not at stake and even the four affected Warehouse stores are making money and trading."

"Smart businesses know that retaining workers is crucial when you’re going into a period of uncertainty, and they look to cut overheads elsewhere."

"The others cut staff and close stores."

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