1500 sales workers lay pay complaints
About 1500 retail workers have now laid complaints about their employers’ pay practices with First Union this week.
The union yesterday released a list of the companies alleged to force staff to work unpaid. It has called on the companies to investigate the complaints.
The list included supermarkets Countdown and Pak’n Save, and large retailers Kmart, The Warehouse, Noel Leeming, Farmers, Whitcoulls, Cotton On Group, Briscoe Group and Harvey Norman.
First Union retail secretary Tali Williams said the complaints related to unpaid meetings held before stores opened and workers being forced to stay late to ‘‘cash up’’ and clean.
Workers had not spoken out about the issue before because working overtime without pay was normalised in retail, she said.
A spokesman for Briscoe Group, which owns Briscoes, Rebel Sport and Living & Giving, said some of its staff were not being paid to cash up at the end of their shifts. Those people would be back paid, he said.
‘‘This is our error and we are now in the process of rectifying it.’’
A Christchurch Cotton On worker, who did not want to give her name, said unpaid overtime was common and expected.
‘‘Everyone feels they have to do it, or else they’ll be singled out and seen as the one letting the team down,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s really, really unfair.’’
The store she worked at closed at 6pm, or 9pm on a late shopping night. Staff members were rostered to stay for half an hour after closing to cash up and clean, she said, but it was routine for workers to spend 10 or 20 minutes beyond that, without pay, to clean the store to management’s standard.
If the store was not up to standard, workers would be ‘‘called out’’ by management in a Facebook group chat the next morning, she said. ‘‘It’s all based on guilt, and it shouldn’t be that way.’’
Cotton On Group has not responded to a request for comment.
First Union launched a confidential survey on Monday to determine the scale of underpaid work, after Smiths City was ordered by the Employment Court to compensate workers who were not paid for attending 15-minute prework meetings over a period of more than eight years.
A Warehouse Group spokeswoman said it did not know of any complaints. ‘‘Our team members are paid for all hours that they are asked to work across our brands.’’
A Countdown spokeswoman said it was unaware of any complaints laid against it, but staff were paid for overtime worked and wages were rounded to the nearest quarter-hour worked.
A spokeswoman for Pak’n Save’s owner, Foodstuffs, said staff members were paid from the time they clocked in and clocked out of work.
Farmers and Whitcoulls are owned by the James Pascoe Group.
James Pascoe director Kevin Turner said the company’s policy required all staff to be paid for meetings. ‘‘We have no substantiated claims that this policy has not been adhered to,’’ he said.
Harvey Norman is owned by ASXlisted Harvey Norman Holdings. Its New Zealand stores are run by franchisees.
A Harvey Norman electrical department worker, who did not want to give his name, said staff at the South Island store he worked at had been expected to attend unpaid morning meetings for the past several years.
He said those who did not attend were yelled at. ‘‘They were told: ‘You’re letting the team down.’ It was very clear those meetings were not optional.’’
Both Harvey Norman and Kmart’s owner, ASX-listed Wesfarmers, have been approached for comment.
The Labour Inspectorate has received a 15 per cent rise in complaints to its call centre since the Smiths City decision came out last Friday.
Briscoe Group says it will backpay employees who have not been paid for cashing up registers at the end of their shifts.