Warehouse workers to get lift in wages

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2014

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More than 4100 workers at The Warehouse Group will start receiving more in their bank accounts as the retail giant moves into the second stage of its "career retailer wage" policy.

But the convenor of the living wage movement thinks the Warehouse should consider going further and not just rewarding its long-serving staff.

The new wage band will raise the wages of staff who have done the required training for their jobs and have at least 5000 hours experience in their roles.

For non-commission workers, it will shift to an base hourly rate between $18 and $20 an hour, compared with $15 to $17 an hour 18 months ago.

The group said its new wage structure used the so-called "living wage" as a benchmark, but also references a staffer's skills and length of time on the job.

The move will cost The Warehouse Group nearly $3 million a year and will apply at all its businesses including The Warehouse stores, Warehouse Stationery, Noel Leeming and Torpedo 7 Group.

Group chief executive Mark Powell said the career retailer wage was aimed at motivating and retaining customer-focussed workers.

"Far too often retail is seen as a second-rate career choice," he said.

"We want to change that view and show that working in retail is exciting, challenging and financially rewarding too."

But Annie Newman, convenor of the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa, said there had been "something of a misunderstanding" that the Warehouse was moving to a living wage.

The 20 or so accredited members of her movement had agreed to pay all their workers at least $18.80 an hour.

But in talks with The Warehouse, she said it had been very clear the company wanted to pay their staff using different criteria.

"What they are not recognising is that people need $18.80 to live, not just to survive but to be active as healthy citizens in society."

Helen Kelly, president of the Council of Trade Unions, said she did not want to be too critical because some Warehouse staff would be paid above the living wage.

"We think everybody needs a living wage and a large number of their workforce are on wages close to the minimum wage, despite this.

"But those who benefit from this, which are mainly the full-time workers who have been there for five to 10 years, this is a pay increase that they'll welcome."

The Warehouse is also planning a number of training programmes to advance retailing as a career option. Moves include a literacy programme for staff, various retail management training schemes and support for a retail-specific degree at Massey University.

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This story has been updated to correct the cost to The Warehouse to $3 million from $6m.

- The Press

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