Whitcoulls

June 1st, 2011 at 8:57 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The National Distribution Union says it is outraged at proposed contract changes for staff at 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 The union is calling for the contracts to be withdrawn and is seeking legal advice.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.”

And No Right Turn comments:

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.

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71 Responses to “Whitcoulls”

  1. AlphaKiwi (683 comments) says:

    I know what you’re saying, DPF, but aren’t the employees being used here to fix piss-poor management’s mistakes. Wouldn’t it be better if they thought of ways to increase income, rather than decrease workers’ conditions?

    [Of course it would be, but not so easy considering the move to e-books. I suspect in a few years they will still close]

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  2. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    When you buy a company, don’t you buy its debts?

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  3. hubbers (139 comments) says:

    Seriously I don’t know how they went under. Books in NZ cost about three times as much as books in the UK in real terms. I suggest using this site that sells at UK prices and offers FREE international delivery http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/?a_aid=hubbers&a_bid=148808ed

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  4. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Whitcoulls & Borders new owner James Pascoe Group’s shareholder Denham Shale responded to the claim they could hire a worker for one week and make him or her redundant the following week with no redundancy compensation:

    Yeah, we could do that. But we’re not like that.

    As Frog pointed out over at Frogblog, if they are not like that, then what is the problem with carrying forward the redundancy provisions and notice requirements in their employment agreement? These are contingent liabilities – they don’t become an actual expense of the company unless it actually starts making people redundant.

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  5. dog_eat_dog (780 comments) says:

    They went under because books cost about three times as much in NZ as they do anywhere else.

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  6. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    I can only offer the best advice ever: BUY A KINDLE! I am paying usually US$9.99 for new books.

    For US9.99 or about NZ$12.50 in Whitcoulls you’ll get a red pen if you’re lucky. Books go for ludicrous prices.

    Don’t boycott Whitcoulls for the way they treat their staff. Boycott Whitcoulls for delivering bad product. Whitcoulls is simply a rip off. If their systems are so bad they can’t deliver books for less than triple the price buyers pay in the US, then they do not deserve your business. IMHO.

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  7. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    what the union wants is for employees to finish working for old whitcoulls on friday and get their redundancy payout and start working for new whitcoulls on monday.

    if they take the new job, they were not redundant, its only a technical redundancy. now its likely then that their contract with old whitcoulls had no technical redundancy clause in it and so its being pushed as a requirement of new employment.

    i worked for a bar that was sold and we all ended up with the new employer. becuase we did not have a technical redundancy clause in our contracts and it was not a condition of our new employment that we have the clause imbedded we were all paid out for being redundant despite only changing uniform.

    Ryan – i am sure they are buying the assets, IP etc of the business and agreeing to take on staff, not buying the shares of the business (which has the debts and liabilities and grievances attached). at least thats what most people buying businesses do.

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  8. Michaels (1,318 comments) says:

    They didn’t go under because Whitcoulls was performing badly, they went under because Red Group was.

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  9. alex Masterley (1,517 comments) says:

    Ryan, no. You by the assets. the vendors remain responsible for debtors and creditors.

    Unless the employees are protected (like cleaners and similar) there is no legal obligation to offer employment to existing staff when a business is purchased. Ther emay be a contractual obligation but that can be limited in it’s extent.

    However most people do offer employment to existing staff, i did, as the staff are part of the goodwill that is purchased.

    Injecting some reality into the discussion had the purchaser (who it must be said has a good track record in retail) not come along) the staff would have been facing an uncertain future and if the administrator had closed the business unemployment.

    One of the reasons the Normans and their businesses are doing well is that they are well managed and have staff who are doing a good job and motivated. I don’t see why Whitcoulls should be any different.

    Oh and IS is a tool.

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  10. GPT1 (2,122 comments) says:

    and any claims or grievances from their previous employer.
    So the new owner is meant to be responsible for any (perceived) grivances with the old? Odd.

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  11. Michaels (1,318 comments) says:

    If there are 45 people out of 900 that belong to the union and causing all this grief, I’d suggest to the Normans not to offer those 45 a contract. Tell them to fuck off with their shit stirring union and find work else where.

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  12. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    Okay, thanks. So if the vendors are the ones responsible for debtors and creditors, would the vendors also be the ones responsible for any historical grievances made by employees? And if so, why would the buyers demand the employees sign away any rights to pursue those grievances?

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  13. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Whitcoulls problems was its former owners, who took on massive debt to buy their businesses and then found they had paid too much.

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  14. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    toad don;t be disengenous (as usual)

    part of being an employer is the requirement to act in good faith. i think an employee would have strong grounds for a grievance if they were hired one week and then made redundant the next.

    remember (yet you lot always forget) that you don;t make a person redundant, you make the position redundant.

    I cannot see how the new owners would risk capital buying the business without reviewing the staffing numbers before they take them on. to decide a week later you don;t need a position is bad business and shows a lack of good faith in the employee.

    i suspect the reason they are requiring the removal of the redundancy from Whitcoulls is part of the price. there is no point selling a business for say 2M if you have to pay out $500K in redundancy. so you tell the buyer they can have the business for 1.75M and have them put in a technical redundancy provision if people want a job with the new outfit. makes perfect sense, especially as the staff are not actually redundant, they keep working!

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  15. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    So the new owner is meant to be responsible for any (perceived) grivances with the old? Odd.

    GPT, that’s what I’m trying to get my head around here. If an employee has a past grievance, who’s responsible for it? Does that responsibility simply disappear with the employee’s signature?

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  16. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    Anyone signing a contract is (by law) allowed reasonable time to consider the contract and to take advise if they think it is necessary, having less than 2 business days to review their employment contract and then having a 5pm deadline does not meet this requirement.

    DPF you should know this, you are an employer, sometimes your dislike of unions gets in the way of your better judgement.

    [DPF: I agree that employees should have a reasonable period of time (days not hours) to consider what they want to do. I was not disputing that. I was disputing a new employer who buys a failing business is expected to keep conditions the same.

    And I do not dislike unions. I have often encouraged people to join a union when it is advantageous for them. Apart from them not paying their tax, I think UNITE does a reasonable job because they are actually interested in helping workers, not campaigning for the Labour Party]

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  17. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    Ryan, to make it perfectly clear to employees (and the union) that they are a new employer and that any previous grievances have nothing to do with them.

    its likely that after the sale the old whitcoulls company will be wound up, so there will be no money to settle grievances. so of course the union will try and chase the new employer. this way its clear before anyone starts that its nothign to do with the new employer.

    i am pretty certain i signed something similar when the place i worked was sold as well about grievances not being carried forward.

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  18. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    Okay, so those grievances are treated as debts the old company is unable to pay.

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  19. Billy (121 comments) says:

    “Whitcoulls & Borders new owner James Pascoe Group’s shareholder Denham Shale responded to the claim they could hire a worker for one week and make him or her redundant the following week with no redundancy compensation…”

    Why would you do that, when you could just not employ them?

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  20. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    the employees can take as much time as they want Yeswewhine. they do not have to sign.

    however the offer expires when the person making the offer says so, and is probably a requirement in the sale agreement to get it all sorted by a certain time. they are employing how many thousand people? why would they want to dick around answering every little query.

    take the offer and have a job, or don;t, get made redundant and find a job somewhere else. plenty of people will take the job you don;t want.

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  21. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    If I was dealing with a receiver / wanted to purchase a Company in receivership, then I would most definitely make it a condition of sale that it was to be purchased free from any legacy provisions. A ‘normal’ sale does not include debt – besides, it would be daft to take over debt from a company that was unable to pay its bills. Any creditors would normally be paid from the proceeds of the sale itself.

    In terms of the staff, the union (who I heard Larry Williams mention represents only 34 of the 900+ employees) wanted the redundancy package rolled over to the new owners together with any current disputes / employee complaints / employee claims. This is totally daft – the new owners have actually come along to purchase the business – not to take over responsibility for any dispute that a staff member may have had with the previous owners.

    I would have thought that the staff would be more than a little grateful to the new owners for the fact that they still have jobs at all. The union in this case, has just confirmed that they are commercially inept.

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  22. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    This is bullshit, they are not being given time to consider or take advice, they’re being railroaded. also “sign away any claims or grievances from their previous employer.” Why is this in there at all?

    It looks like a stich up between the old and new owners for the old own to avoid their legal responsibilities and I question it legality.

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  23. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    I understand that the Ausy outfit who previously owned Whitcoulls had sold all the properties (ie: they stripped the company of its assets) and thus had taken on new liabilities – – monthly rent – which they previously did not have to pay.
    Yes – there are all sorts of arguements from the theorists about the cost of owning property, but the fact remains that if you own it, you dont have to pay rent. It seems that the new burden of rent plus the existing problem of internet trading and the finacial upsets all combined to kill the company.

    Mind you I did try to buy a book for xmas. I went into the store (the bse – Hamilton)and I may as well have gone and talk to a tree in the car park for all the help they could give. I came home, got on the net and ordrred it AND ANOTHER BOOK from amazon. They turned up in 3 weeks. Whitcoulls could have had that business if they were on the ball – but the old owners couldnt give a rats arse – all they wanted was the value of the properties.

    This all means that the new owners also have to pay rent – which wont help. I think the employees should be grateful that they have a job.

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  24. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    @Grendel – the problem with your argument is someone could at a latter stage challenge their contract because they signed under duress.

    As for ‘dicking around answering every little query’ – aren’t good employers meant to value their employees?

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  25. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Tell you what Barry what say you get a contract dumped in front of you and get told to sign it or be unemployed see how fucking grateful you feel about it.

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  26. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    its not like employment contracts are that difficult to read and understand. they will all be the same basic conditions in each contract so drop one of them with a lawyer monday morning, you will have an answer by lunchtime. won’t cost much if 10 people spread the cost.

    how much time do you need? do you want to still have a job or not?

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  27. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    no yWD, there is no duress.

    here is the contract, read it and if you want the job, get it back to me by 5pm monday if you want the job. or don;t if you don;t. seems straightforward to me.

    fuck murray, when did you become a whiny socialist?

    having been there its actually pretty easy. you read it, realise that your basic duties don’t change, just some of the wider provisions and then get on with life. its not that difficult.

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  28. david (2,557 comments) says:

    I would be most surprised if the conditions being offered by the Normans are significantly different to the standard contracts they offer at Farmers. Not to do so would have them setting themselves up for industrial strife over relativity and if they are sinking a lot of their own money into buying Whitcoulls, the last thing they need is lingering industrial conflicts over different treatment of employees in different parts of the group.

    You can also put money on the fact that every Whitcoulls shop being taken over (some already aren’t) will be subject to close scrutiny as to it’s cost structure and viability. There will inevitably be some closures in the next 12 months and no-one in their right mind would assume a service related redundancy liability that included significant costs accrued by the previous owner. The purchasers are not stupid.

    The best thing long-serving employees could do would be to trigger their redundancy with Red Group and apply for the first vacancy with Whitcoulls. If they have confidence in their attractiveness as an employee that is. Their choice is to grab $18,000 (less tax) now and hope they hadn’t shat on their future at some past stage, or to grab the opportunity of continued employment with both hands and work their tits off. The break even point is probably about 4 months of continued employment which makes it a no-brainer to me.

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  29. Brian Harmer (687 comments) says:

    Hubber: for the reasons you describe, I have tended to view Whitcoulls as more of a stationer and Lotto agent than a real bookshop. To be fair their book prices are not far different from other NZ retailers, and sometimes cheaper.
    Online, I have had good service in terms of price, speed and reliability from Mighty Ape. To choose a book at random (A Dance With Dragons by George R R Martin) Whitcoulls are advertising it at $51.95. Mighty Ape has it discounted from RRP of $49.99 to $37.99 BUT Whitcoulls are offering an online price guarantee as follows:

    “Whitcoulls.co.nz “find it cheaper and we will beat it by 10%” Promotion
    We are so confident that our pricing is competitive other online retailers that if you purchase a book from whitcoulls.co.nz and then find it listed on any UK, US, Australian or NZ website (excluding those sites listed below) for a lower price including shipping costs to a New Zealand address, then we’ll refund the difference plus 10%!!
    The excluded sites are: eBay (any country), Amazon marketplaces (any country), TradeMe (NZ), and any other website (any country) allowing 3rd party sellers “

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  30. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    Brian,

    Is A Dance With Dragons out already? Why was I not informed?

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  31. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    ryan, its out in july, but advance sales are going well, and the tv show is not hurting them either :)

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  32. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    what about the businesses that are owed a few million by whitcoulls? should the new owner pay them too? ffs.

    how about “we are lucky to still have a job! we will now be working for a good company who wont leverage the piss out of the business and send us broke again”

    unions must be the most ungrateful bastards going around.

    and who the hell pays for ebooks? lol

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  33. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    A Dance With Dragons is US$14.99 on Kindle, delivered the day it is released.

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  34. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    A Dance With Dragons is US$14.99 on Kindle, delivered the day it is released.

    Now all we need is an aerosol spray of new-book smell.

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  35. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    Well, put me down as a “whiny socialist” on this one too. This smacks of coercion.

    Not in the provisions (who the heck has redundancy provisions in this day and age?!) but in the “you’ve got till 5pm or you’re out the door”.

    It won’t stand up in court.

    But I agree, the staff should be grateful that they have jobs at all.

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  36. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    How do you lend a Kindle copy to a friend when you are finished?

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  37. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    Ryan: ha, yes. But it is hard not to feel shopping in Whitcoulls is like volunteering to be mugged having seen how much cheaper books are overseas and knowing I can get them electronically in an instant and without leaving home.

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  38. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    NDU general secretary Robert Reid said…

    …to force workers to sign out of their RIGHTS and entitlements in a business transfer situation

    Does this idiot understand what rights is? The rights belong to the (property) owners and not the workers nor the public.

    And No Right Turn comments:

    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.

    Now, this anti-capitalist idiot does understand the principles of free-markets after all? Is he confused about free markets or not? I suspect that he is. I agree with Mr Idiot Savant here, is that free people should vote with their wallets and that’s capitalism at work. Perhaps Mr Idiot himself should revise his misguided philosophies of being anti-capitalism and perhaps turn into pro-capitalism.

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  39. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    YWD – well you could lend the device. But for 12 bucks (on average) your friend could just go buy the copy themselves. Of course if you’re Amish all this will be a problem.

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  40. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    @Falafulu Fisi – it’s like you think the world is a cotton plantation and everyone who works there is a slave. You do know that it’s 2011 and not 1811?

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  41. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    No way in hell would I sign that contract! Give me the redundancy, and I’ll look for another job.

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  42. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    YesWeDid @ 10:00am – ridiculous comment. A proper accounting of workers rights is in their interests. Inventing rights for them and then insisting companies adhere to those ad hoc rules is not. Accusing somebody of being pro-slavery when they properly explain what rights are is ironic, lazy, and smacks of Godwin.

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  43. tom hunter (4,843 comments) says:

    So, I suggest not shopping there if you have the option.

    Um – I think that’s why they’re in the crapper.

    This has already been done, years ago in fact in my case when I could not find the books I wanted to read. Certainly one can find them now on the e-site, but that’s just following the crowd.

    However, IS should use Whitcoulls for one final purchase Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy!

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  44. peterwn (3,272 comments) says:

    See:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/5082887/Bookstore-staff-caught-in-the-middle

    “Combining eight employment contracts into one had involved some changes but were not ”significant”, he said. In the new contract all employees will enjoy the same wage or salary as before and the same hours of employment. ”JPG is honouring all employees’ prior service with Whitcoulls and Borders, their annual leave, the balance of long service leave and balance of sick leave,” he said. ”

    Seems the vast majority of staff were covered by 8 ‘model’ contracts and the new owners want to have one model contract aligned to the Farmers / Pascoes one. Seems the main concern is the ‘redundancy’ is not being rolled over, salary levels, accrued leave etc are not affected, so apart from redundancy there is little change.

    Seems the worst that can happen to a competent but redundant staff member is having to ‘transfer’ to Farmers or Pascoes.

    It could be that if the business was heavily unionised, the representatives of a purchaser may have met the union officials once or twice then decided it was not worth the bother.

    Interestingly those who held out on gift vouchers are now in line to be ‘rewarded’ as the new owners will 100% honour them.

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  45. Sonny Blount (1,782 comments) says:

    YesWeDid (400) Says:
    June 1st, 2011 at 9:53 am
    How do you lend a Kindle copy to a friend when you are finished?

    Send them an email. I do it all the time. They get it for 2 weeks then it is automatically returned. Very handy for lending books to people in England or travelling.

    Also share your library with your family or friends (6 Kindles and unlimited IPads/Phones per Amazon account). If I buy A Dance With Dragons on July 12 when it is released, my Mum, Stepfather, Grandmother, Brother, and Sister-in-law will all get it on their Kindles and we can all read it at the same time. For $14.99 (although i think I will have to pay for this one as my Mum has a no books over $5 purchasing policy).

    Whitcoulls is still dead in the water as a pure bookseller no matter who owns it.

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  46. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    Kindle for iPad.

    $12 NZ for most titles. Delivered instantly.

    Why anyone bothers with dinosaurs like Whitcoulls – for the priviledge of paying four times as much – is beyond me.

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  47. Chuck Bird (4,883 comments) says:

    While I agree the Whitcoulls’ employee’s should accept that Whitcoulls cannot afford the redundancy. However, the same argument could be used for MP’s perks. That is the taxpayer does not want more debt as the cannot afford it.

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  48. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Murray – you need to remember that the new owners have no duty or responsibility to offer any existing employee of the old owners a job at all. In fact based on the performance of those at the Base in Hamilton – Id offer none of them a job…

    The new owners could have said to everyone “You need to apply for any jobs because your previous job no longer exists”. Mind you – the new owners are also protecting their investment by keeping them on – but never forget – they dont have to take any of them on. They could quite rightly tell them all to simply fuck off. I think if that were the option, then any employement contract that was legal would be very welcome by the employees.

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  49. Sonny Blount (1,782 comments) says:

    Ryan Sproull (4,253) Says:
    June 1st, 2011 at 9:51 am
    A Dance With Dragons is US$14.99 on Kindle, delivered the day it is released.

    Now all we need is an aerosol spray of new-book smell.

    Yes, because Hemmingway is all about the smell. This is the argument made by people who don’t read much.

    Owning a Kindle does not prevent you buying books that you treasure physically. I does take away the cost put into the boxes in the attic that any reader doesn’t have room for on their bookshelves, leaving more funds to hunt down titles you want for your vanity shelf.

    My 85 year old Grandmother has had her reading life returned to her by the Kindle. Her arthritic hands no longer have to hold the book open and turn pages, she doesn’t have to get driven down to the library to search in vain for the limited amount of books in large type faces which are expensive to buy and still have the one font size to choose from. And the e-ink screen is easier on her eyes than paper.

    The sight of her happiness is far better than the smell of ink, pulp, glue, and spilt coffee.

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  50. Sonny Blount (1,782 comments) says:

    ben (1,766) Says:
    June 1st, 2011 at 9:58 am
    YWD – well you could lend the device. But for 12 bucks (on average) your friend could just go buy the copy themselves. Of course if you’re Amish all this will be a problem.

    Amzon has had electronic lending for a while now. The device does not matter either, it is just a matter of sending them an email and they can read it on whatever. The standard term is 2 weeks and then it is automatically returned.

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  51. Kimble (4,440 comments) says:

    2 days seems like a reasonable time to read a contract and make a decision.

    This is all academic anyway. Book stores are dead. And all the union is doing is providing a practical demonstration of why. Higher prices due to redundant labour costs are one reason I dont buy books in stores. Another is convenience. Sure rent adds to the costs as well, and so does printing, but labour is a much larger part of it, I think.

    One thing that MIGHT be good about a book store is the knowledge and helpfulness of the staff. As far as I have experienced, however, Whitcoulls staff are just glorified check out operators, and have never been much help in finding what I am looking for beyond typing some search into a computer (which I am perfectly capable of doing myself).

    The book store employee with a real love of literature, and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of what is on their shelves is a myth in the big box chain stores.

    There is really one reason I would buy a book from Whitcoulls: free gift wrapping at Christmas.

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  52. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    If the NDU thinks it’s all so simple why not get the 34 to pool their resources and start their own business. They could then dictate terms to their hearts content, share the profits, share the loses. Here’s a golden opportunity for a union to show us all how it should be done. Let union ideals guide us to business utopia. It should be all so easy.

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  53. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    @side show bob – would they be allowed to use the brand name ‘Whitcoulls’ or ‘Borders’ because that is what really has been bought here.

    If not then the NDU would be opening a shop with no brand recognition in a recession in a twilight industry also probably with very little capital. My guess is they would be lucky to last 3 months.

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  54. K.Reed (18 comments) says:

    Employees should be grateful: to have their ability to live threatened? Yeah, that’s fantastic industrial relations and completely illegal. I’m sure you’ll have difficultly finding anyone that’s grateful that the only negotiation option they have in life is homeless starvation.

    Employers/new owner should be grateful: that they have a decision to choose or dictate terms at all and exercise the rational thought that comes with holding responsible positions. The employees could tell them to get stuffed and walk and then new owners investment tanks suddenly. Forget that finding and training staff costs time and money. Close Hamilton. Close Auckland, Close the whole lot and blame the employees. Yeah, that’s great strategy.

    Clearly both sides need to take a little breather. The (unionised) employees realising that a change of ownership isn’t redundancy when your job doesn’t change, even if, legally, they could ask for it. And the new owners in that if they are using the exact same management systems, managers and staff, they cannot say the old grievences are irrelevent – because the exact same environment exists.

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  55. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    Sonny – I didn’t know that. Thanks!

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  56. Maggie (672 comments) says:

    So Farrar doesn’t dislike unions. I’m glad he’s cleared up that urban myth.

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  57. trout (939 comments) says:

    The short time frame for the taking up of employment contracts may have been influenced by Tribunal decisions. I recall a recent case where a new retail business owner got done for laying off an employee who came with the business but proved to be unsuitable. The employee was fired within two weeks of the ownership changeover but she was able to successfully sue the new owners. The Normans will be keen to make a clean break between new and old employment situation as soon as possible. (although it has to be said they are honouring service entitlements).

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  58. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    Maggie, I thought you would have been more concerned with the fact that, out of 900+ staff, it has been reported that there were only ~34 union members.

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  59. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    I struggle to believe that these people aren’t just happy they keep their job! If the company goes into receivership they may not get their very generous redundancy payouts at all (4 weeks for first year, 2 weeks for every year after!). Reminds me of the GM scenario where they went into redundancy over the size of the pension scheme they were funding…

    As for the future of Whitcoulls the new owners are not idiots. It’ll get transformed into more of a stationary & convenience shop. The airport whitcoulls make a lot of money as there are always the convenience items that are required at a higher markup. Think WH Smith in the UK for what they will likely become. Top 40 fiction, top 20 cds etc etc. You don’t buy a failed book store to keep running it as a book store.

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  60. trout (939 comments) says:

    Airport Whitcoulls have been sold to another operator. Not now part of the chain.

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  61. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    I struggle to believe that these people aren’t just happy they keep their job!

    Indeed. And I struggle to believe that anyone thinks there’s a long term future in high-street book sales. I recently wanted 5 copies of a book. There was 1 in stock and the other 4 were to take 3 weeks on backorder. Instead I used Amazon and the 5 books arrived in a week, and we landed at less than half the price quoted by Whitcoulls.

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  62. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    Pretty sure the union members work in the distribution centre not the stores.

    @ trout – correct, they are to be rebranded as “relay” stores. They also seperately sold the Bennetts stores as well.

    @ labrator – ironic you should mention WH Smith as they owned Whitcoulls for a while too.

    Bookstores generally are fucked for the reasons well canvassed here, specifically the internet and Amazon, and ebooks.

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  63. Maggie (672 comments) says:

    Elaycee, I am concerned that without union advice and representation workers have been shafted. They have learned an expensive lesson.

    BTW, I appreciate your following me about is a compliment, but do you have to stand quite so close? BO isn’t pleasant…..

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  64. KevinH (1,227 comments) says:

    It’s not surprising that the new owners are”trying it on” with the new contracts, thats business.However employees of the previous owner are not obliged to sign the new contracts with their previous contracts still in situ. If they do sign then they deserve an ass kicking.
    I would go for the redundacy provision with the previous owners who despite their predicament have a legal obligation to honour their agreements. It may take time but is worth pursuing.

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  65. calendar girl (1,233 comments) says:

    A press release yesterday by James Pascoe Group (see following) clears up some of the confusion evident on this thread. But it avoids direct reference to the redundancy issue that has been given most of the publicity – presumably that is seen by JPG as one of the changes that “are not significant”.

    It is clear, though, that JPG is not contracting to take on employment arrangements that rest with the existing Whitcoulls legal entity, even though it is prepared to offer on-going employment on very similar terms that include “the same wage or salary as before and the same hours of employment”, and is “honouring all employees’ prior service with Whitcoulls and Borders, their annual leave, the balance of long service leave and balance of sick leave.”

    A fairly reasonable offer in the eyes of most employees, it seems, and far more attractive than ultimate liquidation of the business and elimination of 900 jobs. The press statement reads:

    Employees Support the Purchase of Whitcoulls
    Tuesday, 31 May 2011, 4:36 pm
    Press Release: James Pascoe Group

    MEDIA STATEMENT

    Employees Support the Purchase of Whitcoulls

    In an announcement last week, the James Pascoe Group (JPG) entered into an agreement to purchase the assets of Whitcoulls and Borders. The deal is subject to the acceptance of more than 900 employee contracts and more than 60 leases by 9 June.

    JPG is pleased to confirm the vast majority of existing Whitcoulls and Borders employees have now accepted the employment offer made to them. Only a small number of employees are still to accept and some 10 of those are on leave and are not in a position to do so.

    It should be noted that of the more than 900 Whitcoulls and Borders employees only about 28 are members of the NDU.

    The purchase agreement enabled JPG to decide which assets it wanted to acquire. The total number of stores in the proposed purchase is dependent on lease negotiations.

    JPG has made a commitment to retain as many employees as possible. If JPG is unable to secure a lease, it aims to accommodate all employees either at another Whitcoulls or Border store or within the wider James Pascoe Group.

    Currently Whitcoulls and Borders have eight different employment contracts. The offer of employment is designed to consolidate all Whitcoulls and Borders employees on similar terms and conditions enjoyed by JPG’s 9,000 employees across New Zealand and Australia.

    Combining eight employment contracts into one has involved some changes but they are not significant. Employees have been given at least four days to consider the offer. An 0800 helpline was provided to employees over the four day period and time extensions have been offered where requested.

    In the new contract all employees will enjoy the same wage or salary as before and the same hours of employment. JPG is honouring all employees’ prior service with Whitcoulls and Borders, their annual leave, the balance of long service leave and balance of sick leave.

    JPG is motivated by the opportunity to secure a landmark retail business and retain more than 900 jobs. Without this intervention Whitcoulls and Borders and their employees would face an uncertain future.

    JPG has demonstrated its commitment to New Zealand retail through the purchase and restoration of the Farmers brand eight years ago.

    Whitcoulls is an iconic New Zealand brand with 140 years of proud history in New Zealand. This deal will secure its future and the employment of more than 900 New Zealanders and the wider community.

    ENDS

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  66. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    Maggie, the way to sort our BO is to go and have a wash. Make sure you only use right tap!

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  67. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    @ Calendar girl – thanks for clearing that up.

    So, without having to do so, JPG offered to continue to pay at existing rates / same hours / honour all long service entitlements / honour any sick pay and holiday entitlements! And still the union (representing 28 members) says this is not good enough???? FFS!

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  68. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    thats somethign that has been missed. i have never heard of a new employer carrying over all sick leave, annual leave or long service entitlements. that is usually wrapped up as part of the final pay of the old employer.

    its a massive financial risk to take on existing sick leave entitlements, some of the people there will have huge numbers of days available and could, from day one go on sick leave and get paid without ever working for the new employer.

    oh but all fuckwits like maggie care about is how the employees ‘might’ have been screwed over.

    carrying your sick leave to a new employer is a huge benefit that funnily enough the union is ignoring. the JPG group should be thanked profusely for this.

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  69. SteveO (76 comments) says:

    @Brian Harmer – I hadn’t spotted the price guarantee on the Whitcoulls website. This gives us a good opportunity to compare price and service, thanks to my Disney obsessed daughter. A week or so back she decided to buy (read: “get me to buy for her”) the book “Lemonade Mouth” by Mark Hughes. We got it from The Book Depository for GBP5.10 delivered. Whitcoulls.co.nz would have sold it (the same ISBN) to us for NZD16.95 delivered.

    So we could have got it 10% cheaper from Whitcoulls, right? Well, no, not quite. According to the fine print, they will only refund the difference to the “full price” and the Book Depository marketed it as GBP5.40 less 6% = GBP5.10 so we’d only get it about 4% cheaper. And this is quite a low “discount” from the Book Depository so for many – most? – books from them the Whitcoulls guarantee wouldn’t make it any cheaper even if you could find exactly the same ISBN on both sites.

    But at least by buying in NZ we could have got it quicker, right? Again, no. Although Whitcoulls site says the book is “IN STOCK | FREE DELIVERY” they also define “In Stock” to mean: “Ships in 24 hours directly to you – Received in 10-15 working days after dispatch”. The Book Depository got it to us in a week.

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  70. Dazzaman (1,140 comments) says:

    And the fourth question to ask is….Is there to be some kind of stock clearance sale? Erm, ah….everyone needs cheap books.

    Fifth question……Is there an online application form for the jobs of those who refuse to sign? I have a big kid who could use a job…..

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  71. Maggie (672 comments) says:

    Grendel, a technical redundancy clause, common in most union negotiated contracts, protects all conditions of employment and accrued entitlements. In future stick to subjects you know by saying nothing.

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