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Save Mart sacks unionised workers

Written By: - Date published: 8:55 am, September 16th, 2017 - 52 comments
Categories: boycott, health and safety, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: ,

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,

https://twitter.com/cupoteacoast/status/908596848092262400

 

52 comments on “Save Mart sacks unionised workers”

  1. Brendan 1

    Stop shopping there. Plenty of other great second hand stores in Auckland. I like the Clothing Collective in Birkenhead.

  2. Ad 2

    I prefer Tattys Ponsonby Road and High Street.

  3. halfcrown 3

    Why not go to the Hospice shops, Sally Army, or the Red Cross. All good outfits with the money going to good causes.

  4. Nic the NZer 4

    Bill Black discusses the links between Labour Unions, Wage Gains and Productivity Gains.
    http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2017/09/low-rate-unionization-us-consequence-deregulation.html

  5. lurgee 5

    This is going to buried – even round here – in a blizzard of election coverage. Almost as if it was intended to be like that.

    It’s massively corrupt – unsafe working conditions, misleading ‘charity’ campaigning and now probably illegally firing union members.

    They mustn’t be allowed to get away with it.

    Bigger story than the election, in some ways. That’s just about how one bunch of corrupt liars is arguing with another bunch of corrupt liars about which set of promises get to be broken. This story is about real people losing their jobs because their employers are wicked crooks.

    • Muttonbird 5.1

      Surprised you didn’t blame Labour. You manage to squeeze in the ‘they’re all the same’ line though.

    • weka 5.2

      Who are the second bunch of corrupt liars? RNZ? The union? Worksafe?

      • lurgee 5.2.1

        I meant National and Labour. I’m very cynical about politicians.

        • weka 5.2.1.1

          Ah, sorry, I see you were talking about the election not the Save Mart issue.

          • greywarshark 5.2.1.1.1

            I think that the Save Mart issue relates to the political one, also lurgee.
            And the example of people being treated in an authoritarian, unreasonable and unfair manner is important and results from the political system introduced by the RW and rampant here, that oppresses workers.

            And there is another aspect that I will mention here. The high prices for gifted items that most major charity entities charge. They are high for the poor people that the charities are supposed to be serving. Halfcrown refers to the Hospice, Sally Army and the Red Cross. All charge more than a poor people can afford to pay. They set up as a commercial entity, and employ managers and staff to run the not-for-profit business along with volunteers who do the back-room work.

            I had a look at a Sally Army shop the other day which was packed with stuff and they complain that they have to dump too much. But they don’t try hard enough to raise the money by increasing the volume of sales through selling at a lower price. The fact that everyone not at high earning levels has suffered a decline in wages over the years, with rises not matching even low CPI inflation, and far behind the housing inflation much of which is outside CPI inclusion. The Sally Army would say that they need to raise money for their programs for the poor. Yet the unhappy truth is that the poor, through their purchases, are largely funding the programs for themselves or those a bit lower on the ladder than themselves. The Red Cross shop I have seen has had $50 on a mohair womens top, and that might be justified, but do they have more ordinary woolen tops for $2? They bring second hand stylish clothes over from their Oz side. So they aren’t a real poverty-directed charity and neither is Hospice which is more like a second-hand shop.

            A different method would help. After the first rush to pick out the best of the new clothes each change of season produces, a month later the shops could start a buy one, the rest half price approach. This would enable the hard-up to get clothes for the present season when they wanted them. At present they get put out at reduced rates when the season has advanced halfway. This would shift a lot of stuff and if they also held workshops
            where customers could attend with access to needles, spare buttons, matching thread, elastic etc and sew up things that would be useful to them for size, purpose and colour, the charities would reduce their landfill dump and help people in a practical way, and create a lot of friendship and goodwill. But charities tend not to do this, they push the stuff out, follow a rigid commercial system, and are not as useful and kind to the poor as they should be.

            Unfortunately they price things on a ‘We can get so many $s for this’ and ‘They can afford to pay $s for that’ and often base the affordability on their own comfortable though not wealthy, income. I suggest that ordinary basic adult clothes should be under $2 and crockery and warm baby clothes 50 cents and under. Nicer stuff could be an extra $1. Looking at the Sallies the other day, a tidy cloth doll $4 – should be $2 max, an xl man’s zip fleece jacket at the end of the winter season was $8. Someone would be able to wear that as the demand tails off, and they should be bringing it down to say $4 as it was a nice one. $2 if it was covered in fluff.

            Often volunteer sorter workers would take clothes home for washing if they were useful and could be improved to be nice for sale and further use. But I am concerned that new health and safety rules will make this difficult. Another problem for the poor and charities is the growth in control and administration agencies that are contracted by the government to run this or that, and they sit in their offices and work out some purist, rigid system that bears no relation to what is needed, and just enables them to tick their boxes and indicate they have fulfilled the rote of requirements handed out by half-dead departmental keyboard tappers trying to achieve their own ‘targets’ and their mindless politician bosses.

            There are a few helping agencies that give things away freely, but people would be lucky to access one close enough and most could need transport. And there is always the need to be working or ready for work or some such rigid rule that covers everyone. The fact that you spend time accessing clothing for all your kids and get more valuable give-aways and good sewing help than by scraping by on some skeleton wage for half a day to buy half the equivalent from a charity if you can get to it in opening hours, doesn’t count to a mindless automaton run by the SocWelt Dept.

            Unfortunately under the neolib economic system everything is a business. Charities are popping up, new ones every day, to sell and provide things that government used to do for citizens as part of a modern, developed country that had fair distribution methods. All then received benefit from being a wanted part of the country and the gains of running a modern economy.

            But that concept has been abandoned by the RW who want to extract more out of the economy for themselves and exclude many NZs from decent paid jobs, constantly holding wages down and pushing up vulnerable immigrant numbers who totter on the edge of being rejected and forced back in greater poverty than before to their own country, after making costly contracts which will bind them their whole life long. Disgraceful treatment done by government in NZs name, grinding poor people from foreign countries, and hurting poor NZs forced out of their birthright place as included citizens able to make a life here.

            • Incognito 5.2.1.1.1.1

              Unfortunately under the neolib economic system everything is a business.

              Indeed, and the same is true for charities; even when they’re not run to be profitable they’re still run as businesses. They need to (re)cover costs and any real profits need to be handed out or end up in admin & running costs (‘overheads’). Trusts are no different. Some are worse and some are better than others, of course.

              All problems have a market solution (and it variant: the market knows best).

              One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Producers/sellers claim they deliver highest value for money and customers/buyers want the best value for money. You see the problem with this when it comes to donated and/or second-hand clothes or any market transaction for that matter?

              My Utopian dream is that we act more altruistically and cooperatively (cf. Monbiot) and try not to extract maximum financial profit but instead try to maximise social profit, i.e. what is beneficial to the whole/many rather than to the individual/few. In this context the word “profit” will have a different meaning that goes back to its roots.

              • greywarshark

                Incognito
                +1
                My point I think jells down to the idea that they are acting as businesses, and presenting themselves as charitable businesses, but not trawling through business models for ideas. As a social businesses they can look to maximise the good to the customers while still covering their costs and make the money they need for helping programs.

                And they might gee up the returns if they used the method of initiating more buying that I suggested. It is interesting how regularly the fully commercial model that Briscoes runs under has specials and sales to keep targeted things moving. And they are doing well yet this approach does not agree with a long-held belief that sales cheapen the store image.

                • Incognito

                  I agree that turnover is important for (good) business; volume can balance low(er) margins on individual items. Even selling items below cost can make (business) sense if the customer is (more) likely to also buy other items and/or come back another time. Stock that doesn’t move presents an opportunity cost taking the place of stuff that might sell better. I also agree that a sale does not necessarily equate to inferior quality; only when it is too good to be true.

            • Gabby 5.2.1.1.1.2

              If they set the prices too low, other dealers raid them. I guess they balance lost sales with higher prices to maximise revenue that can be spent charitably.

              • greywarshark

                Gabby
                But that is not their object. That’s confusing competitive business with a socially conscious charitable business. The charity knows how much it needs to make for its purposes, and makes sure that they are provided for.

                If some other group wants to come and strip them out and sell their stock at the flea market, they will notice and can put up a sign stating that this is not acceptable and refuse to allow them to fill cartons or sacks with their stock. Other shops say that they will not be used as a warehouse by other business.

                But if people buy some things and sell them at the market, then they are showing entrepreneurship. There isn’t quick money on-selling just any secondhand goods so there would be a lot of time spent standing around and they have to meet the site fee. There is no point in a charity that is overloaded with goods especially clothes, and china, being curmudgeonly about someone on-selling. Give people a chance to get on and earn some extra money for themselves. NZ never seems to have accepted the spirit of initiative and wanting to do better. Who do these people are who want to work so hard for so little seems to be the negative attitude.

                The point is to make sure that the charity makes a suitable excess, enough to pay for vehicle maintenance, manager and part-time employees salaries and the various social enterprise programs they run, and these costs should not be inflated by expensive siting and inflated salaries and unnecessary costs.

                Except for one cost, and that should be an annual get together with some nice food in a pleasant surrounding for the volunteers to show them gratitude and some awhi for their kind work and loyalty. Pamper them a wee bit, just being thanked is a little short of what they deserve and would appreciate.

            • Whispering Kate 5.2.1.1.1.3

              I remember once being in a Hospice Shop and my daughter commented to the shop manager that the clothing was much dearer than the Red Cross and the lady told us “we are not selling for charity, we are fundraising for Hospice”. They do not accept benefit stamps and will move those customers on to charity shops which do accept them. I recommend that people go to K Mart or the Warehouse, they will find clothing far cheaper than the charity shops these days.

              Hospice is a high end second hand shop, never in a month of Sundays are they are a charity shop.

  6. DoublePlusGood 6

    Well, that has to be the easiest WorkSafe prosecution ever.

    • Pat 6.1

      if they determine it falls within their remit….which is by no means certain on past form.

      • DoublePlusGood 6.1.1

        Well, that’s true – they didn’t prosecute IRD when they had plenty of cause to, for instance.

    • lurgee 6.2

      You’d think, would’t you?

      But I suspect the psychopaths running the company have had some sort of semi-competent advice, rather than just acting on impulse. And their pockets are deep and time is on their side; they can countenance protracted litigation. People living hand to mouth, suddenly having to find new jobs aren’t in that position.

      • weka 6.2.1

        I’m guessing they’re either very stupid, or they can afford to pay to keep the work culture the way that it is. Time will tell.

        Some good social media campaign esp re the source of the clothing would help.

        (side story is wtf? re people’s behaviour in the changing rooms and the stuff they are donating).

  7. Delia 7

    Sorry I ever gave them a bean in Dunedin, fortunately they are to far away from me to be bothered shopping there in Nelson

  8. Once was Tim 8

    But let’s just take a step back and consider this:
    In relation to migrant workers, the Labour Inspectorate is turning people away – despite various promises and campaigns over the years, and asking people to report with the promise something would be done.
    The reason being they’re only investigating ‘systemic exploitation’, (presumably related to various employment sectors – but then – who the fuck knows!. And the reason given is ‘resourcing issues’. (I could have told them they’d have a problem 8 years ago, but then I guess they were more concerned with re-equipping an old Defence Force with curved screens and ‘break-out rooms’)
    So …. given that, why should we expect any sort of proper investigation, let alone remedy into substandard employers breaching employment law or H&S issues.

    Seems to me, they’re setting themselves up for some serious claims against government departments and agencies in future

    • weka 8.1

      yes, the government is culpable here too and there needs to be improvements in how many government departments do their job. Just was well we’re about to have a change in who runs the country.

      • Once was Tim 8.1.1

        Ae!
        And when we do get change, let’s hope that change involves proper resourcing and depoliticisation of the administrative wing of government.

        • weka 8.1.1.1

          tbh, I think it’s going to be one of the bigger challenges for the incoming govt. So much of the public service has been fucked over in the past 9 years.

          • Once was Tim 8.1.1.1.1

            I think it’s probably THE biggest challenge. I’ve worked in the PS at various times over the years (for long periods) and noticed a chip chip chip incremental fucking over of it – especially under this current regime. At the risk of getting off topic in this thread – increasing corporatisation and installing commercial imperatives is part of the neolib mindset.
            You just have to look at the background/CVs of some of the appointments to Snr Management in certain Munstries/Depts, or check out Frank McS’s ‘Crony Watch’.

            There really needs to be a complete review of how appointments are made.

            But the same mindset has crept into some charities and NGOs – collections outsourced to external business – the clipping of the ticket. I’m not even sure if the annual donations made to various charities these days (supposedly directly) aren’t susceptible to the ‘clip’.

  9. ianmac 9

    The charities will be disturbed because they depend on the money from wherever it comes from. If they withdraw from Savemart where will their funds come from? Would the loss of big money be justified in order to stand up for the workers?

    A hard call. Meantime Tom Doonan and son, the owners of Savemart must be making huge money and no doubt getting a big tax rebate for big donations to charity.

  10. Gristle 10

    The commercialisation of charity is at a stage where the likes of Save Mart make a profit while cloaking themselves in the cloak of respectibity of child cancer philanthropy. RNZ reported that Save Mart’s contribution has been $50,000 over 3 years. Why do they even bother?

    Other charities rely on companies to seek donations from the public, and the company retains somewhere between 50-80% of the funds donated. I have been hit up by these people using high pressure sales techniques for Red Cross, Helicopter rescue, Starship et al. Why do they even bother?

    I now make donations to various charities by going directly to the charity to explicitly dismediate the commercial entity.

    • greywarshark 10.1

      Hey helicopter rescue tend to live hand to mouth. So don’t lump them in with other organisations that are responding to irregular emergencies, the helicopter exists to help with regular ones that nothing else can get to.

      • NZJester 10.1.1

        Read what they said again greywarshark, they are not bagging in the helicopter rescue service but on these commercial companies that are collecting money in their name but keeping 50% to 80% of the money raised and the charity gets what remains. If you give your money directly to the helicopter rescue service they will get all of your donation and if more people did that they would have a lot more funding to work with. 10% to 15% for all the work they put in I could understand and they would still be able to make a modest profit, but they are raking in profits for their directors and investors a lot of the time higher than what the charities receive from what is meant to be a donation to support the charity.

        • greywarshark 10.1.1.1

          NZJester
          That is true from what I have heard. These charity collectors keep so much. Why wouldn’t the services who are employing them not set up another fund raising model? If they joined with some others in the same league they could run their own fundraising out of their own premises with their own employee. (Not Joanne Harrison, Transport Authority or Tessa Grant, Casino and school accountant) then they can watch they don’t get a woman or man with champagne tastes, so well audited and taking regular holidays, and pay them a beer income with bonus for reasonable target efficiency.

          All this contracting out is just part of the lean machine idea based on there always being too much fat and therefore inefficiency. But being skinny isn’t the only way of ensuring efficiency and effectiveness.

  11. Nicki Douglas 11

    No more shopping at Savemaft for Me! Disgusting behaviour!

    • AsleepWhileWalking 11.1

      They used to be good until around 15 yrs ago. Now just a rip off in terms of price, the shitty worker treatment + minuscule contribution to charity seals their fate as far as I’m concerned.

  12. Tanz 12

    I never shop there now. High turn over in staff, and frankly, for second hand goods, very high prices, some worse then if new. It’s a cold, dank barn of a place, not very pleasant for the workers at all.

  13. Macro 13

    What a scam.
    Hopefully this will awaken people to the need to think more carefully wrt donations to “charitable organisations”
    Obviously some charities are more charitable than others.

  14. Macro 14

    Can’t for the life of me see why they are so reluctant to allow workers to wear gloves when sorting tho… I mean WTF! It’s not as if the cost of a few gloves is going to reduce the already meagre donation they make to Child Cancer – but I guess it will cut into the obviously huge profit the owners make for themselves by oooh maybe $1000 over the year. Heck that would mean they would have to cut short their trip to Fiji by a half a day.

    • weka 14.1

      Yeah, it’s hard to understand what is going on here. Looks more and more like the man who owns the business and/or whoever is setting the culture of the workplace is an utter fuckwit and simply likes things this way. Because it doesn’t make any sense from a business point of view.

  15. greywarshark 15

    Hi weka
    When you have time – I did a serious look at the commercial way that some of the main charities are acting and think this quite long one might be sitting in spam.

    • weka 15.1

      honestly, it would be really good if you could sort out the whole comments going into spam thing once and for all.

  16. cleangreen 16

    We need Unions to keep our Government honest and our working conditions /jobs safe and secure to work in.

    It is glaringly obvious that Savemart see the clouds appearing as the Labour government change is comming.

    So they are going to suffer worse after showing there callous manner to the workers now, “lest we foget” Savemart.

    • There’s no doubt whatsoever that workers wages and conditions have been declining for over 30 years. There’s also no doubt that it seems to have really accelerated under this National govt.

      There have been a whole series of punitive labour laws passed under this govt designed to empower employers even further than before , – and the only time that this govt backs down is when it is forced to .

      Like Pike River .

      And even that has been deliberately glossed over with and enabled with current conditions .

      If it was not for direct action , caregivers would not have been given a pay rise ,- and if it were not for the tireless campaign of Unite union , – zero hour contracts would still be the norm.

      The TRUTH of the matter is that the origins of all of this imbalance of power weighted towards employers can be found and blamed squarely on Ruth Richardson’s Employment Contracts Act 1991. That was the most pernicious , spiteful and destructive piece of legislation ever to have been advanced by the Business Roundtable / NZ Initiative using their political stooges Roger Douglas / Ruth Richardson .

      And if we really want to see change towards a more equitable society it would mean a dismantling of the Employment Relations Act combined with more legal powers given to Unions to advance collective agreements ,- and then backed by the government .

  17. mosa 17

    Save Mart is just another SLAVE MART when it comes to workers safety and conditions in this country.

    I will never frequent their stores ever again.

  18. Glenn 18

    I needed a blazer or sports coat for the rare wedding and gradually increasing amount of funerals. Wife and I spent a day checking out all the op shops including Save Mart and what did fit me was either not worth the price wanted or something that was absolutely unwearable unless it maybe was in a film set in the 50s.
    Checked the local Warehouse out the next day and found just what I needed at a reduced price, from China admittedly.

  19. UncookedSelachimorpha 19

    Love this workplace flexibility – more Delivering for New Zealand! Thanx National.

  20. AsleepWhileWalking 20

    Does anyone know if those clothing bins need resource consent?

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