Coronavirus: Staff forced to work through lockdown launch petition against retail store

Retail workers have created an online petition.
Retail workers have created an online petition. Photo credit: Change.org

A petition has been started to close down retail chain Crackerjack for forcing employees to work through the New Zealand COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Crackerjack, which sells hygiene, food and cleaning products, has remained open through alert level 4 as an essential business under the fast-moving consumer goods sector.

But employees are angry they are being pressured to work through the pandemic with few protective measures in place.

A current Crackerjack employee told Newshub she enjoys her job, but believes it is unethical to force staff to work under the circumstances.

"This company is giving us a choice of either 'work and put yourself and family at risk', or 'quit/resign'," she says.

"Those of us who are living with at-risk people are not willing to work during a lockdown period, as we are endangering our families.

"However, we have been told that we MUST attend our shifts and if we request for leave 'it will be declined' as said by my manager. 

"If we choose to not show up to work or call in sick they will take “disciplinary action” which will most likely lead into us being fired and not paid out."

The employee says her store's glove and facemask shipment doesn't arrive until next week, and workers are putting their health at more risk until then.

An email sent to Crackerjack customers from CEO Craig Faulkner says it was a big decision for the company to continue trading, but ultimately it wanted to help the public through the pandemic.

"We have an obligation to the community to continue trading. Some staff have chosen not to work, and we support them in that decision.  

"We are grateful to our team for those that are working through this unprecedented time. Without them, we could not continue to provide supplies to our community in need."

But the employee says she hasn't received any support.

A petition was started on Wednesday morning to have the company close the stores to protect staff.

"Crackerjack is not essential, they shouldn't remain open and are not looking after their staff. It is places like this that will keep the spread going and continue our lockdown timeframe!" the page says.

The petition now has over 900 signatures, with many commenters saying they are past or present employees. One worker accused Crackerjack of putting "profit over the safety of our workers".

"Head office should put themselves in our shoes and see how it feels, rather than sitting at home and isolating while we are out putting our lives at risk," they wrote.

"We are pretty much defeating the purpose of the lockdown. I believe we should shut our doors and actually put the safely and wellbeing of each worker first."

The petition is arguing Crackerjack isn't providing an essential service, as many of their products can be found in supermarkets - especially since similar companies such as The Warehouse were classified as non-essential.

What sets Crackerjack apart is they provide cleaning supplies to the New Zealand Police - but commenters say the company should only operate that part of the business, and shut any customer-facing roles.

Crackerjack has not yet responded to requests for comment.

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