Warehouse distribution centre workers to strike

The Warehouse.
The Warehouse. Photo credit: RNZ

The Warehouse says there are likely to be stock shortages and delivery delays next week thanks to strike action being taken at its distribution centre in Auckland.

Workers will walk off the job for 24 hours on Monday "following a breakdown in bargaining and ongoing frustration over the company's restructuring attempts", FIRST Union said on Saturday.

"This is a company with a horrendous track record for exploiting labour-hire workers en masse to avoid their responsibility as an employer," said organiser Hayley Courtney.

"For these workers, who've been under the gun and overworked since The Warehouse ramped up it's online and mail-order operations during COVID-19, it's supremely offensive to be milked for all they are worth and then dismissed without notice or reason so the company can avoid legal obligations to employ them directly."

About 270 workers will skip their shifts that day, Courtney saying they have been watching "the ridiculous spectacle of CEO Nick Grayston giving himself a massive million-dollar salary boost while he makes long-serving retail staff redundant".

The Warehouse Group said while it respects workers' right to strike, they're already paid better than many others working similar jobs - the lowest-paid getting 8 percent more than the Living Wage and 19 percent above the incoming minimum wage of $20.

Chief operating officer Pejman Okhovat said they're also offering pay rises beyond this.

"We are offering a pay increase on an already very competitive rate and enhanced bereavement and sick leave provisions. We'd like our team members' bargaining representatives to reconsider the offer on the table. We believe it's fair and provides certainty in a challenging employment market."

Okhovat said while they have a mitigation plan, there will be "minor delays in stock arriving into some stores and in fulfilling some customer orders placed this week".

No customer-facing staff are taking part in the strike.

The Warehouse Group, which includes Warehouse Stationery, Noel Leeming and Torpedo7, made a $44.5 million profit this year, and received $67.8 million received in COVID wage subsidies.

Courtney said if the employer doesn't meet their demands, they'll strike again.

"This walkout is the first strike action for these workers but may not be the last."