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Cotton On blindsides workers

Cotton On quickly and quietly closes two Porirua stores, blindsiding workers

Workers at neighbouring Cotton On and Cotton On Kids stores in Porirua’s North City Shopping Centre say they are worried about their futures after the multinational chain closed their workplaces this week without providing clarity on if and how they will redeployed to other stores, and whether or not they will be entitled to redundancy compensation if they don’t want to continue working for a profit-obsessed chain whose workers apparently come last, FIRST Union said today.

Yesterday, FIRST Union reported that bargaining between union members and corporate managers at Cotton On has stalled for four months, with workers’ demands for a living wage being ignored, despite the company’s promises of the opposite. With the news of this week’s store closures, FIRST Union organiser Richie Morris said Cotton On were the encapsulation of a business model that relies on cheap garments and disposable workers.

"This was short-notice, impulsive, solely profit-focused and insensitive to long-serving staff," said Mr Morris. "Telling workers that they might one day have a job in another store within a 30km radius is not good enough, especially if those workers are considering redundancy following Cotton On’s actions."

"There are around ten workers between the two stores, and they are all union members. They can’t help but feel like the company has paid them less heed given they’re already in an adversarial situation with the chain over the failure to live up to paying a living wage."

Workers at Porirua’s Cotton On and Cotton On Kids were informed of the closure of their stores in the last ten days, and the generic Cotton On store has already closed and is boarded up and inaccessible. The closure of Cotton On Kids is expected within the next week. Some staff have been offered redeployment within a 30km radius, but details have been rushed and delivered without adequate consultation, meaning staff are unsure what redundancy will be available to them, or when they would begin new roles.

"I wish companies who made literally billions of dollars every year would take the time to close two small stores properly - do some consultation, consider your workers’ situation, and communicate the closure publicly rather than trying to brush it under the carpet," said Mr Morris.

For one worker (who wished to remain anonymous due to their probable need to apply for new jobs in the near future), four years of service for Cotton On ending in this manner have left a bitter taste behind: "The process was rushed and poorly communicated - I haven’t heard from anyone since they told us on Monday and nobody here knows what’s going on."

"Cotton On Kids is still open - probably not for long - and we have customers coming in and asking if they can return stuff to the other store, and the answer is: I don’t know, unfortunately."

"In meetings, our managers couldn’t answer our questions and the staff are feeling stressed and uncertain about what comes next."

"They just said the lease was up and the stores weren’t that profitable… we still don’t know what’s really behind it."

FIRST Union has written to Cotton On to request a suspension of the closures until sufficient consultation with staff could be performed, but the company has rejected the request.


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