The National Distribution Union says it is outraged at proposed contract changes for staff at Whitcoulls and Borders, which were sold last week by administrators.
The contracts, given to staff on Friday to review over the weekend, scrap any previous redundancy payments and force workers to sign away any claims or grievances from their previous employer.
Employees have been given until the end of today to sign up to the new agreements. The union is calling for the contracts to be withdrawn and is seeking legal advice.
NDU general secretary Robert Reid said last week’s ”cautious optimism” about the deal has turned to outrage.
”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.
”Whitcoulls workers are being asked to sign away any entitlement to redundancy compensation, notice of termination of employment and any claims or grievances from their previous employer. 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.”
Businesses who treat their employees this way don’t deserve my money, and they don’t deserve yours. So, I suggest not shopping there if you have the option.
Let’s look at this one step at a time. First of all I saw a tweet which said that less than 5% of the staff belong to a union, and the vast majority have signed the new contract. So let’s not assume the NDU is speaking on behalf of majority of employees.
Secondly it is regretable that any employees are asked to take on a contract with less generous provisions than previously. I’ve been there in the past and it is never something you are happy about.
But thirdly you have to look at why there is a new owner for Whitcoulls – the old owners went into receivership. This means they were unable to run it profitably, and have lost some or most of their inveestment. Now bearing in mind that the stores were unable to be run profitably, it is no surprise that new owners are offering less generous conditions. If they offered the same terms and conditions, then it is highly likely they would also be unable to make a profit, and they’d fold and then there would be no jobs for anyone.
Only in Fantasy Land does the cost of labour not affect profitability and the ability to create jobs.
Fourthly, the existing staff have a choice. They could decline a job with the new owners, which would trigger the redundancy provisions in their existing contracts. Even though the old owners are in receivership they are not bankrupt, and staff entitlements are ranked near the top of the priority queue.
So for some staff, it might make sense to take the redundancy and look for a new job. For others, they would obviously have the security of carrying on.
Then we turn to Idiot/Savant’s advice to boycott Whitcoulls. This will mean that all those staff who did take up the new contract with no redundancy provisions, will then lose their jobs as Whitcoulls closes for good, and they will be left with nothing. I love someone who hates employers so much, he’ll put 1,000 people out of work to make his point.