Countdown employees to see wage hikes

Supermarket chain also announces a series of new benefits

Countdown employees to see wage hikes

Countdown has announced that its employees across Aotearoa will receive average wage increases of 19% over the next two years, thanks to a new collective agreement signed by the supermarket chain and FIRST Union.

Under the agreement, employees will be getting a 12% wage increase in 2023 and then a 7% increase in 2024, equivalent to $4 per hour pay rise for 18,000 workers.

"Our team across Aotearoa work incredibly hard to serve their local communities and make sure customers have a great experience when they shop with us. This agreement is a clear signal that we back our team and the essential work that they do every day," said Spencer Sonn, managing director at Countdown.

In addition to the wage hike, the new employment agreement also outlines a series of benefits for Countdown employees, including:

  • Pandemic leave clause. For the first time ever, additional leave entitlements for all WHO-classified pandemics including COVID-19
  • Unsociable hours allowance for employees working between 10pm and 1am
  • A security working group. This group will mean the team can directly contribute and share ideas for further improvement of safety measures, particularly around customer abuse and theft
  • An increase in bereavement leave including for stillborn, miscarriages and whangai equivalent for family members
  • The ability for teams that work across midnight to transfer a public holiday so they can have a whole shift off rather than half/part shifts

Sonn thanked the FIRST Union for working with Countdown and representing its members throughout the process of the agreement.

"This is an important agreement for our business and we're pleased to have finalised it. It will have a significant and positive impact on our team, both through increasing their wages as well as better supporting them with benefits that reflect the reality of working in grocery retail today," Sonn said. "We want to be an employer of choice, retain great people, and ensure that our team can have long, fulfilling careers with Countdown. We believe that this agreement has landed in a place that means we can achieve that."

The new employment agreement, which Countdown said takes effect immediately, comes as the retail industry faces immense pressure because of the pandemic.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford previously said the pandemic, including the restrictions that came with it, prompted in-store aggression against employees.

"Retailers across Aotearoa continue to experience significantly high levels of in-store violence, aggression and antisocial behaviour," Harford said. "Retail NZ is encouraging New Zealanders to take a moment and breathe instead of involving retailer workers in an undue aggressive or tense situation. Kiwis will continue to see Shop Nice posters throughout retail stores, social media content and advertising, as a reminder of the impact undue actions can have on workers."

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