22 Dec 2020

The Warehouse Group wage subsidy repayment: Taxpayers pleased

4:27 pm on 22 December 2020

Tax payers are commending The Warehouse Group's decision to repay $68 million in Covid-19 wage subsidies.

Warehouse on Blenheim road in Christchurch

The Warehouse Group announced that it would repay the $68m wage subsidy it received from the government during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The Group, which includes retailers The Warehouse, Warehouse Stationery, Noel Leeming and Torpedo 7, took the money in August as lockdowns slashed earnings.

However, the company was harshly criticised by unions, the government and during the election campaign for laying off hundreds of staff and then reporting a full year profit of $44.5 million.

In June, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was "angry" at the company for pushing on with the restructuring while receiving the wage subsidy.

Auckland resident Geeta said while the move was a positive one, the company should never have fired so many people.

"My stance is that if they needed to take the money to support their staff then that's good, if they no longer require it or it was taken under false pretences then they should pay it back," Geeta said.

Fellow Auckland resident Josephine Thomas said it was "really important" that The Warehouse Group pay back the subsidy it was "quite cooked" that employers were laying off people mid pandemic then keeping the money.

"If they were always planning on laying off their staff then no [the company shouldn't have taken the subsidy], absolutely not, if they were going to keep their staff on and pay them then yeah," they said.

Mark Stewart said it was a "good thing" the subsidy was being paid back, but questioned why The Warehouse Group took the money in the first place.

"They have laid off staff, more lower income staff and I just question whether or not they actually needed to do that."

Stewart, who buys 'a lot of stuff from Torpedo7', said that since learning about the issues around the wage subsidy he has started to consider if he should stop purchasing from there.

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