Monday 30th May 2011 4 Comments
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Whitcoulls workers are being asked to sign away rights in new employment contracts offered by the book store's new owners, the National Distribution Union (NDU) says.
Cautious optimism about the sale by receivers last week had turned to outrage as workers were given until the end of today to sign new employment agreements offered on Friday, NDU general secretary Robert Reid said.
"Never in my 30 years of working as a trade unionist have I ever seen such a blatant ruse to force workers to sign out of their rights and entitlements in a business transfer situation," Reid said.
Anne and David Norman, whose retail empire includes the Farmers chain, bought the Whitcoulls and Borders New Zealand book stores from receivers. The buyer is Project Mark Ltd, a company in the Norman's James Pascoe Group. The sale was said to preserve 900 jobs when it was announced last week.
Reid said workers were being asked to give up entitlement to redundancy compensation, notice of termination of employment and any claims or grievances from their previous employer in new contracts.
"If the administrator made workers redundant today, it would have to make a lieu of notice payment and redundancy payment, up to a cap of $18,600 per person.
"Under this agreement, James Pascoe could take on a worker for one week and make them redundant the next week with no redundancy compensation pay whatsoever," Reid said.
"Even at a conservative estimate, the 900 Whitcoulls workers in the sales process could have lieu payments and redundancy entitlements of $5000 each. This means that Whitcoulls workers are being forced to contribute almost half a million dollars of entitlements to the sale. It could well be double that," he said.
The union was seeking advice of the legality of the move.
"However, the issue should not be whether it is legal or not, the issue is a moral and ethical one of how any company should treat its staff when the staff are in a vulnerable position."
A good sale for the future of book retailing in New Zealand should not be premised on the slashing of working conditions of the loyal staff, Reid said.
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