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Retailers threaten our national effort with non-essential work requirements

FIRST Union says major retail employers are putting the national effort to limit the spread of the dangerous Delta variant of Covid-19 at risk by requiring staff to come in to work to perform non-essential duties like packing up online orders for everyday luxuries and backfilling confectionary aisles.

Reports are emerging this morning from across the retail membership of FIRST Union in retail businesses like Kmart and The Warehouse, where stressed staff are querying why they are being rostered on to perform ordinary duties when it could worsen the transmission and spread of the virus.

"Our members are already putting their health and wellbeing at risk as essential workers, but it's totally unacceptable for some employers to push that limit in order to continue their ordinary business activities under the guise of necessity," said Ben Peterson, FIRST Union National Organiser.

"Retail workers should not be called in to stock chocolate bars on checkout aisles, or pack up online orders for champagne flutes to send out to consumers at home."

"Doing our part means acting in the best interests of all New Zealanders, and these retail employers are letting down the team of 5 million and risking super-spreading of the virus between staff at general retail stores."

"To put it bluntly, some employers are taking the piss with the kinds of duties they are requiring and who they are including in the category of essential workers - it is supposed to be the most stringent stage of lockdown."

FIRST Union has been in regular communication with retail employers since the latest outbreak and is seeking to secure commitments that staff should only be attending work to perform truly essential services during level 4 of the current lockdown.

A petition has also been created calling for all workers to be compulsorily paid during lockdown while required to stay home and self-isolate or where employers are considered non-essential or choosing not to apply for a wage subsidy.

"Building resilience and protecting our essential workers is more crucial than ever given the ambiguity about the recent community spread of the Delta variant, and risking retail workers’ wellbeing to make a quick buck selling non-essential items is the height of antisociality and self-interest," said Mr Peterson.

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