RNZ have been covering a story this week about an Auckland branch of nationwide secondhand clothing business Save Mart. The story started midweek with descriptions of work conditions,
Save Mart workers told Checkpoint last night they had to sift through clothing bins containing soiled nappies, broken glass, dead animals and used sanitary items.
They said they were forbidden from wearing gloves and were threatened with dismissal when they questioned the working conditions.
Following Checkpoint‘s story last night, several other workers contacted RNZ to complain about working in buildings with inadequate heating and leaking roofs, as well as being prevented from taking personal bags into work due to theft fears.
They said blood and faeces-stained clothing was not an unusual sight when sorting through the clothes.
WorkSafe became involved,
WorkSafe spokesperson Jo Pugh said if that was true, it was almost certainly a breach of health and safety laws.
“What you’re talking about in terms of the provision of PPE or gloves, that’s a known control for minimising many different kinds of risks. So if the case is as described, it really seems a no-brainer for the company to provide gloves to minimise what sounds like real serious risk to workers.”
Ms Pugh said WorkSafe staff have been asked to look into conditions at Save Mart’s New Lynn branch, in order to get a “clearer picture”.
Then on Friday RNZ reported that staff at the branch who were also union workers were first segregated from other staff, and then told they were being made redundant with 4 weeks notice,
Union workers who complained about unsafe conditions at Save Mart stores have been made redundant, soon after John Campbell was invited to the New Lynn store to see the operation for himself.
First Union organiser Graham McKean told Checkpoint that while investigators were at the New Lynn store today, the 10 union members at the store were given four weeks notice of redundancy.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of union members – and they’re all women – who have commitments, children, some of them are solo mothers and they’re distraught and don’t know where to turn. We now have to navigate through that.”
Mr McKean said he could not comment on whether non-union staff had also lost their jobs.
Earlier, Save Mart owner Tom Doonan allowed Checkpoint to talk to staff at the New Lynn store, but after being promised free reign to talk to staff, RNZ was prevented from speaking to union staff.
RNZ’s main report is here,
This interview with a previous employee describes both unsafe working conditions but also an authoritarian culture of punishment and degradation for workers and even unsafety for customers while the business was making large amounts of money. RNZ says that this is typical of around 20 workers they’ve talked to thought out NZ.
It’s worth remembering that Save Mart gets donations of clothing but is a business not a charity. Feel free to stop shopping there, and also to stop donating. Might be worth looking at the various sources of where they get their clothing from and see if can be directed to organisations who deal with their staff legally and well. The connections with legitimate charities also needs looking at – who is getting paid and how much?
Not much else to say apart from I hope the law, government, public and social media go hard on this and that Save Mart learn how to both follow employment law and treat their workers as valued human beings. And rock star economy, my arse. This is what happens when the government endorses bad behaviour from the people with power in society.
Social media are already telling how it is,
Hey, Savemart? This is disgusting. https://t.co/F4T3DjUC4P
— Jessica Williams (@mizjwilliams) September 15, 2017
Yeah not sure how this is going to go in any way that looks good for SaveMart https://t.co/wCcKlEOK9H
— Dayle Vavasour (@vavasword) September 15, 2017
Save Mart must rank along with Talleys as worst employers in the Country. Won't be buying anything from them in the future.
— Ngati Pakeha Kuia (@carol_stirling) September 15, 2017
Makes a complete mockery of H&SE laws in NZ. Save Mart fires workers after safety complaints – union https://t.co/r5AnTeTMlx
— ShakeyIsles (@cupoteacoast) September 15, 2017
Well that's 1000% illegal. I hope he is prosecuted and I hope ya'll boycott Savemart. So charitable. https://t.co/EOYkkephj0
— ❄Capital❄K❄ (@Styla73) September 15, 2017
— Watchmanz (@Watchmanz) September 15, 2017
— Paul Le Comte (@five15design) September 15, 2017
2/ factory I've ever been in and in my workshop @ work.
I wonder if the staff at those sites are treated the same?
I'm picking those rags
— DaveW (@DaveOfTheNui) September 15, 2017
4/ a company that acts like that…… Still silence from @ChildCancerNZ about their position on the ethics of their cash cow.
— DaveW (@DaveOfTheNui) September 15, 2017
This is shameful, and I would guess also illegal. I hope SaveMart gets shut down over this. https://t.co/LPFepOocu4
— Scott Milne (@LostArcNZ) September 15, 2017
It shows how difficult the challenge for the union movement in a precarious work environment. Casual staff can have hours cut for no reason
— Aaron Hawkins (@CrAaronHawkins) September 15, 2017
I <3 Savemart – got all my clothes there for years – but no more til they treat their staff better & no more putting clothes in the bins 🙁 https://t.co/PBN1sb57Vk
— #AltPetal (@iwybourne) September 15, 2017
goodbye savemart- our whanau wont be shopping at yours anymore. https://t.co/mBziRzklBq
— NATIVE For LiFE (@nativ4lyf) September 15, 2017
Disappointed to see Savemart has bad bosses – unsafe working conditions & union busting 😡 got most of my clothes at New Lynn branch, no more
— Julie Fairey (@juliefairey) September 15, 2017