More than 900 workers are set to lose their jobs as The Warehouse reveals plans to slash its workforce across the country.
After early morning meetings of Red Shed staff, First Union claims the company told those gathered it planned to eliminate 782 roles, and an additional 137 jobs in store closures.
But Warehouse chief operating officer Pejman Okhovat has released a statement saying the meeting centred on proposed rostered hours changes and were not related to changes that were underway at the store's head office or three proposed store closes in Dunedin, Johnsonville and Whangaparaoa.
In today's announcement there would be a reduction of up to 320 fulltime equivalent roles or between 500-750 staff if part-time, fixed term and casual roles were included.
Okhovat said the way the stores operated had remained largely unchanged for years despite significant changes in the way people shopped, with growth in the online business and customers visiting stores at different times throughout the week.
"To achieve this, we are asking our The Warehouse store team members to help us by reviewing some proposed revised rosters," said Okhovat.
Warehouse management were now entering formal consultation with affected staff who would have the opportunity to submit their availability through an online app or opt for voluntary redundancy.
The proposed rostered hours changes were not related to the "agile" way of working that were being implemented at The Warehouse Group head office. They were also separate to the proposed store closures.
Okhovat confirmed the Dunedin Central store would be closed to customers, but remain in use as an online centre.
Union general secretary Dennis Maga said he would be appealing to Warehouse bosses later today to keep staff facing redundancy, and redeploy them to jobs within the wider group.
"We are clearly disappointed," said Maga. "What we are saying to the company is give us a chance for these workers to be redeployed."
Maga said the situation was proving incredibly upsetting for staff, with the future still uncertain for many after this morning's meeting.
"It's a really stressful time for staff at the moment. We are in the middle of a pandemic and people are losing jobs."
Those nearing retirement age were going to be particularly hardest hit, he said.
Prior to this morning's meeting the union accused The Warehouse management of using Covid-19 to justify operational decisions already under review that stand to leave hundreds of workers without jobs and "thousands more" with significant reductions to their incomes.
The Warehouse held staff meetings earlier today to inform staff about a proposed restructure and new operating model that could result in the loss of about 1000 staff.
The group's 92 country-wide stores opened at 9am instead of 8am to allow time for a team meeting to discuss a proposal about how stores operate.
But First Union slammed the move.
"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," Maga said in a statement this morning.
"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."
Maga said 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.
"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."
In an NZX announcement on June 8, the country's largest listed retail company said it was moving to an agile business model, which would "likely see a reduction of around 100-130 roles" in its Northcote head office.
It also plans to close six The Warehouse, Noel Leeming and Warehouse Stationery stores. The stores that face closure include: Noel Leeming Henderson Clearance Centre and Tokoroa store, The Warehouse Whangaparaoa, Johnsonville and Dunedin Central stores and the Warehouse Stationery Te Awamutu.
This follows earlier announcements that it will close its The Warehouse store in Birkenhead in July, and Noel Leeming stores in Papanui and The Palms in Christchurch.
The company said the proposals could cost up to 950 jobs.
The group has already started consultation about job cuts in its head office as it powers on with its plans to go agile from August 31.
Warehouse Group chief executive Nick Grayston said last month Covid-19 had "made it even more clear that agile is the right model for the group".