The Prime Minister “has not set foot in” in a SaveMart store since Checkpoint revealed the unsafe and unsanitary conditions workers were forced to endure.
Forced to sort through second hand clothes without gloves, workers – who did not want to be named – described finding dead animals, faeces, used tampons and needles, broken glass, and blood and urine stained clothes.
SaveMart’s clothes are donated via blue metal bins, found in most neighbourhoods around New Zealand, with some of the proceeds going to the Child Cancer Foundation.
At the Vodafone Music Awards last night Jacinda Ardern proudly told a reporter on the red carpet that her faux fur jacket was bought from SaveMart in Hastings.
After questions from Checkpoint today, a spokesperson said in a statement Ms Ardern “regularly buys upcycled and recycled clothing” and the faux fur jacket she wore to the music awards was bought “years ago”.
“As soon as she became aware of the issues at SaveMart under investigation by WorkSafe, she has not set foot in the shops again.”
SaveMart has until February 21 to comply with three WorkSafe Improvement Notices – “health and safety systems, worker engagement, and provision of personal protection equipment”.
That includes the requirement workers sorting clothes are offered gloves.
The Child Cancer Foundation said in September it was concerned about the issues raised by SaveMart staff and would meet with its owner, Tom Doonan.
Two months later, its chief executive, Robyn Kiddle, is yet to have that meeting due to "scheduling challenges".
Danielle, a former employee of SaveMart in Hastings, where Ms Ardern bought the faux fur coat she wore to the music awards last night, says she “would rather eat a steaming pile of dog sh*t” than work there again.
“There was a dead cat in one [clothing bale], faeces, dirty sanitary items, you name it, anything.”
Danielle, like every other SaveMart worker Checkpoint has spoken to, regardless of which of the chain’s 33 stores they worked at, or when they worked there, said she was forbidden from wearing gloves.
“I asked, ‘Well what if I supplied my own?’ and they said no and said if they caught us with gloves on that we would get in pretty major trouble.
“Sorting through the bales one day I reached down and felt a sharp prick on my finger, and it took me about half an hour to search through the bale to find out what I had been pricked by.
“It was a diabetic needle. I ran to the manager and told her, ‘I’ve been pricked by a needle I need to go to the doctor, can I take off work and go to the doctor and get it checked out?’ and she proceeded to laugh at me and basically told me to suck it up and deal with it and get back to work.”
Danielle provided Checkpoint with a doctor’s note supporting her story.
“It was disgusting. I was worried all the time. You have no hot water in any of the stores either, so you'd be either trying to find hand sanitiser to clean yourself, because most of the time there was no soap.
“So you're just trying to scrub off your hands after touching urine and faeces and dirt and mould and you just don't want to go to lunch and eat.
“I was coming home and you'd blow your nose and you'd have dust, like black dust, coming out of your nose.”
Mr Doonan has refused to be interviewed by Checkpoint, but via email he said all staff in all stores have been offered gloves.
WorkSafe says SaveMart has employed a health and safety consultant.
If it fails to comply with WorkSafe’s recommendations, “further enforcement action” will be taken.