N.Z. in lock down: DAY 14


Yesterday was DAY 14 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

In the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have seen their jobs get put on ice as their employers brace for what might be the single biggest economic hit to the country since before 1987. Estimates have been made that 400,000-500,000 New Zealanders might lose their jobs as a result of the COVID19 pandemic.

Whilst the vast majority of employers are trying to protect their staff from the impact as much s they can, there are a few employers whose methods have attracted negative media attention. Fletcher Building, which has had several turbulent years as a result of mismanaging a host of projects and finding its balance sheet to be a sea of red, is one of two employers I want to look at a bit more closely in this article. The other is Sky City.

Fletcher Building has asked its 9,000 staff to take a staggered pay cut, of which 8,600 staff agreed to. Its senior staff were initially going to take a 15% cut and then raised it to 30% when it was realized how much impact was being felt by other staff. Concerns were raised that there would be hardship issues for staff who live from pay check to pay check. The workers union E tu believes the conduct to be unlawful and indicated it would be reporting Fletcher Building to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise.

Sky City has come to my attention after reading a Stuff article, where a lady working as a food and beverage manager and union leader describes how she has in effect been fired. Julia Liu talked about a letter that had been sent to staff that ruled out any discussions, any exploration of alternatives. In her case a 21 year career was being brought to a close. The letter, according to Unite Union National Secretary effectively told the staff that they are fired. Ms Liu said no effort had been made by Sky City to apply for a wage subsidy to assist employees.

In this case another article suggests that Sky City actually is assisting staff to find new jobs and that the company did apply for the wage subsidy.

These are tough times and the speed of the onset of the lock down had to be fast in order to start slowing down COVID19. However I believe that the warning signs were around for a bit longer than either employer have indicated and that as a result, had they been better organized they could have talked to staff in greater depth.