Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Quake weary staff get Xmas wings

A travel firm is rewarding workers with Gold Coast flights, but some other businesses aren't being so generous.

House of Travel will pay for 100 Christchurch staff members and their partners to take a week's break on Australia's Gold Coast over the coming year. Photo/ Supplied
House of Travel will pay for 100 Christchurch staff members and their partners to take a week's break on Australia's Gold Coast over the coming year. Photo/ Supplied

A travel company has given 100 of its staff affected by the Christchurch earth-quakes a special Christmas bonus. House of Travel has paid more than $100,000 for the Canterbury staff to fly to the Gold Coast with a partner and stay in an apartment for a week.

But other large organisations around the country are taking a much more restrained attitude to Christmas cheer for their staff.

House of Travel chief executive Mark O'Donnell said the privately-owned company wanted to recognise the stress Christchurch staff had faced after the earthquakes, including a third big one in December last year.

"Just as everybody was thinking they were through it, it came again," Mr O'Donnell said.

"We wanted to do something to recognise that a lot of people had done a lot of work to help the business go through the earthquake, but really for the next couple of years it's going to be the same old [in terms of] houses and issues people are facing."

The company has rented two apartments, one for couples close to Surfers Paradise and one for families near the beach, for an entire year.

Each staff member can take a partner for free, and pay for children's flights, to one of the apartments for a week.

Mr O'Donnell said staff were blown away when the bonus was announced last week.

"The initial reaction was stunned silence and then there was a lot of clapping. And then looking around the room there were people in tears."

The situation was a far cry from many public sector jobs, in which workers have not received Christmas treats.

At Waikato District Health Board, a spokeswoman said staff rostered to work tomorrow would receive a small Christmas cake.

An Auckland District Health Board spokeswoman said no bonuses were paid to its 10,000 staff at Christmas, although they did receive a punnet of strawberries.

AUT University spokeswoman Aimee Driscoll said the 2500 staff, about 1100 of them academic, would be paid a day early in time for Christmas Day.

And any extra holidays that were not statutory days during the tertiary institution's close-down period, between December 21 and January 4, were not deducted from staff annual leave entitlements.

But the 156 staff at Maori Television started their Christmas break with an extra $500 each at a cost of $78,000 to the taxpayer-funded station.

Chief executive Jim Mather told the Herald the bonus was "a statement of appreciation".

At McDonald's Restaurants, staff will not be getting a Christmas bonus and a third will be working on Christmas Day.

Spokesman Simon Kenny said bonuses were given during staff remuneration and salary reviews which were done during the year.

The chief executive of the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand, Beverley Main, has said most large companies take the same approach as McDonald's - adding bonuses into an employee's remuneration package, determined as part of performance reviews.

It was mostly small businesses that still gave staff Christmas extras.

One small company in Hamilton gave staff a bottle of wine and a picnic blanket, while another put on two Christmas parties, one for staff and the other for their children, including presents.

Heathcote Appliances co-owner John Heathcote said some staff in their five retail stores in Waikato received bonuses at the end of the financial year that were tied to performance.

Christmas bonuses

House of Travel: Free airfares and accommodation at the Gold Coast for 100 staff and partners
Maori Television: $500 bonus for 156 staff
MPs: 1.9 per cent salary rise backdated to July
Auckland DHB: No bonus but punnet of strawberries
Waikato DHB: No bonus but Christmas cake if working Christmas day
McDonald's: No bonus
AUT: No bonus but paid early and extra leave during close-down.

- NZ Herald

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