30 Mar 2020

Countdown give essential workers a pay rise

2:49 pm on 30 March 2020

Countdown will give staff a 10 percent wage increase to its supermarket and distribution workers during the four-week lockdown.

Queues at Mt Wellington Countdown on the 28th of March

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

It follows a similar announcement from Foodstuffs over the weekend.

Countdown managing director Natalie Davis said paying team members more reflects the essential service they are providing the country.

"As well as paying our supermarket and distribution centre teams more, we are also supporting any of our team members whom the government has deemed high risk so they can be encouraged to stay home and not worry about work," she said.

Countdown said it has been paying any of its team who is required to self-isolate due to travel since February and was also paying any team members the government has deemed to be high risk.

From September, Countdown team members with 12 months service or more will earn a minimum of the living wage of $21.15 an hour.

Since the lockdown there has been various reports of some essential businesses price gouging.

In a statement, Countdown said customers will start to see short-term specials and promotions return this week and next, as the supply chain re-builds and customer demand evens out.

"This week our customers will see specials return across produce from today, meat and Easter specials from Wednesday, and the following week from 6 April a broader promotional programme will return across the store."

Davis said to help the teams respond to the huge demand, the supermarket chain has begun a significant recruitment programme.

"500 new team members started with us last week," she said.

Union welcomes wage increase

First Union is pleased both Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises are giving employees a pay increase during the lockdown but argue all workers should be given the living wage.

First Union secretary for retail, finance and commerce, Tali Williams, said the value of retail workers is finally being recognised, with supermarket staff being on the front-line in the fight against Covid-19.

"It has taken a pandemic to recognise these people as essential, but that is what they've always been, and it's the reason we fight for living wages for all retail workers."

Williams said many of the workers are still only on or earning close to the minimum wage.

"While we're praising the supermarkets for their decisions, we have concerns that the pay rise is just a temporary measure, when those workers are worth a living wage in any context, not just when they're some of the only businesses open."

She said Foodstuffs have refused to say whether they will continue the wage increases after the lockdown, but Countdown said they would meet with the union tomorrow, so there was room for negotiation.

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