Coronavirus: Kiwi worker facing redundancy speaks of 'independence' that came with employment, challenges she now faces

A Kiwi worker forced into a redundancy process due to COVID-19 has spoken of the independence employment gave her and the challenges she now faces.

By September, New Zealand's unemployment rate is likely to be more than double what it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the thousands of Kiwis going through redundancy processes is Tina Barnett, a table games supervisor with SkyCity. 

The entertainment group announced in May that COVID-19 had "fundamentally changed" the business's future, with Kiwis having less disposable income to spend. As a result, it proposed reducing its workforce of waged staff by 700. In April, 200 workers were made redundant.

Barnett told The AM Show that employees were first offered voluntary redundancy before a Last In, First out process. 

"It is very hard, it is very challenging. Whether they are justified or not, it is what it is. It is happening everywhere, it is happening all over New Zealand, all over the world. We are not alone in this," she said. 

"It was one of the most fairest processes I think we could have done. It wasn't based on skills or knowledge. It was most fairest (sic)."

Barnett began with SkyCity in 2005 as a "middle-aged beneficiary with five dependents". 

"I made a personal commitment to myself, I needed a job, I wanted to buy a home for my children and get some stability and security in life."

When she got the job, her first in "some time", she said she was very grateful. 

"I bought the home, but ideally, I would like to have bought one in Auckland, but as a single, working mum I couldn't afford it. I bought one back in my hometown in the central Bay of Plenty in a little place called Murupara.

"I have got a mortgage to pay now, but in reality, my mortgage is a third of what I pay in rent as well."

Barnett said having a job gave her "independence". 

"I have control of my life and I am able to be who I want to be as an independent Maori woman raising my children."

Not having a job comes with a lot of questions, she said. 

"The first thought is, as a single, working mum here in Auckland, the rent you pay, you are losing your job. Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? How am I going to pay the rent? How am I going to start feeding the kids? I just fought 17 years trying to stay off a benefit."

Barnett said she will take skills she has gained during her time at SkyCity as well as working with unions back to Murupara as she will no longer be able to afford living in Auckland.

Tom O'Neil from said she had the right attitude. 

"Tina was just amazing. She has got the right attitude. Get stuck in, work hard. It's not her fault. That's the first thing to remember," he told The AM Show.

O'Neil said it was important people facing redundancy don't panic. 

"A lot of people just totally freak out. The first thing I'd be doing is do a budget and just try to really figure out where some savings could be. A dollar saved is literally a dollar earnt," he said.

"Get a really good CV, a LinkedIn profile if you are a sort of supervising manager, cover letter, practice your interview skills and then just get out there and hit the hidden job market. Go direct to employers."

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