More companies lay off staff after getting millions in Government's wage subsidy scheme

Companies that received millions of dollars from the Government's wage subsidy have already started laying off staff. 

The first round of the subsidy, which aimed to keep workers employed during the lockdown, expired this week. 

The food distribution company Bidfood got more than $14 million to cover the wages of more than 2000 staff - now it's cutting some workers loose across the country. 

One staffer found out he'd be losing his job on Thursday - just one day after the 12-week subsidy expired. 

"I think it's pretty stink, I think it's premeditated," he told Newshub.

"I believe that companies have got a moral obligation to at least make an effort. I believe that some companies have actually used the subsidy for their own benefit, knowing full well that they had no intention of retaining staff. 

The Government received 20 complaints about Bidfood's use of the wage subsidy, and an investigation has now been launched. 

It posted a $53-million profit last year, but its boss says it needed the subsidy to survive the lockdown.

"We needed that wage subsidy to be able to keep paying staff," Bidfood chief executive Phil Struckmann said. "Without the wage subsidy there, we do need to take some costs out and right-size the business."

He won't say how many staff will go, but it's clear a new surge of lay-offs are already underway.

Event Cinemas will make at least 65 staff redundant - it got $2.8 million from the subsidy - while rural services company PGG Wrightson is looking to make 12 workers redundant next month, despite getting $3.7 million from the subsidy - including for the staff set to go. 

Others include Max Fashions, The Warehouse and SkyCity.

The Prime Minister made her frustration known earlier this week. 

"Ultimately that was to try and keep those employees in work," Jacinda Ardern said.

The fact is the subsidy rules never required companies to keep staff on after it expired.