Business confidence down as big-name employers plan more cuts

As some of New Zealand’s largest businesses continue to downsize their workforces, research shows the national business outlook is declining.

Business confidence down as big-name employers plan more cuts
ANZ’s business outlook survey for August found that business optimism was down, with 29% of respondents expecting the economy to get worse in the coming year, compared to 15% in last month’s survey.

Profit expectations and hiring intentions also declined.

“Confidence is critical to keeping the economic wheels turning,” said ANZ’s chief economist Cameron Bagrie.

“If firms don't have confidence, they … don't take a punt on that new employee and activity grinds to a halt.”

This has been reflected in recent weeks in further job cuts among New Zealand’s big brands.

New Zealand Post’s chief executive Brian Roche told Radio New Zealand that the company had cut 1300 jobs since 2013, and would be looking at downscaling middle and senior management positions next.

Earlier this month, NZ Post announced plans to cut 75 jobs from its Chirstchurch and Wellington call centres.

Speaking to HRM earlier this year, Jo Avenell, group GM of people and capability at NZ Post, said that the decline in letter-sending would “have a huge impact on the number of people [employed by NZ Post] going forward”.

”In designing our strategic plan for the next five years, it became evident the impact of the scale on our people,” she said, explaining that the organisation would take 25-35% of its total workforce out of the business.

However, she emphasised that the company is doing all it can to “caring for our people”.

“There’s a huge amount of integrity in the business, and so we realised we were asking a lot of ourselves to make some of those commercial decisions,” she told HRM.

“What we could influence was how we treat our people.”

NZ Post has provided outgoing staff members with skills workshops, helping them to improve their employability and plan their next steps.

“We created Future Zone, a site dedicated to outgoing employees’ futures beyond the company,” Avenell said.

“There’s a list of things people can access – it’s a comprehensive suite of offerings that can be accessed as and when they are needed. These include skills workshops, CV writing courses, interview skills development and retirement workshops.”

The plans have been met with backlash from union officials. Joe Gallagher, EPMU organiser for NZ Post workers, said the time had come for the company to invest in its workforce.

“We don't want to see any more jobs go, and we don't know where there's any more room to cut,” he said. “The strategy for New Zealand Post's future can't be more cuts.”

Kathmandu – which recently turned down a takeover offer from Briscoes – is reportedly set to review its head office structure.

The company has around 250 employees at its head offices in New Zealand and Australia.

Newly appointed CEO Xavier Simonet said the company was taking steps to actively address poor sales and profit, which would involve looking into all areas of the business.

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