SkyCity workers who were laid off because of the Covid outbreak say they are furious that the company is now applying for an extension to the Government's wage subsidy.
The workers say they pleaded with their bosses before they were made redundant to get the eight-week extension to the scheme and keep them on.
SkyCity Entertainment Group, however, says the pandemic has fundamentally changed its business and it is "right-sizing" itself as a smaller, domestically-focused company.
It is seeking the extension to the wage subsidy for 2219 full-time and part-time staff.
A spokeswoman said the company had experienced a 40 per cent decline in revenue over the past 40 days and was applying for the subsidy to make sure it could sustain its employee base until business returned to previous levels.
This angered some of the 900 staff who had already been made redundant since the outbreak reached New Zealand.
"I was actually quite shocked," said Tina Barnett, a former supervisor at SkyCity's Auckland casino. "Because that could have helped those who were very stressed to hold onto their jobs for that little bit more."
Barnett, who is co-president at Unite Union, had worked at the casino for 17 years. She took voluntary redundancy after realising that she was in line to lose her job under the "last in, first out" approach - despite her long tenure.
"When you're in a certain age bracket … where the hell are you going to go after this?" said the 57 year-old. "Are people going to employ you?"
Unite Union organiser Joe Carolan said former workers were "absolutely furious" because the union had repeatedly asked the company to apply for the extension before it cut more workers.
"That support was there from the Government to keep people in work for another eight weeks - that would have helped people with their rent and children situations. It was no skin off SkyCity's nose to take that subsidy while people were still there."
SkyCity said that while its core domestic gambling business was doing "relatively well" since emerging from lockdown, the "employee-heavy" areas of hotels, food and drink and attractions had been slow to pick up.
Chief executive Graeme Stephens has previously said that the subsidy was helpful but did not cover all of the company's wage and salary costs.
The scheme covers the wages of workers at Covid-affected businesses and is paid at a flat rate of $585 for full-time staff - with companies required to top it up to at least 80 per cent of a worker's normal wage.
When the Covid outbreak struck in New Zealand, SkyCity laid off 200 people, mostly in management positions. It claimed $21.3 million in the first tranche of the wage subsidy.
When that 12-week subsidy ran out, it began the process of cutting another 700 waged staff - around half of whom have now taken voluntary redundancy.
Employment lawyer Michael O'Brien said SkyCity was not breaking any rules because it was not laying off anyone who was receiving the subsidy. "It is possibly more of a moral thing," he said.
The company first applied to cover the wages of 3292 full-time, part-time and casual staff. Its second application was for 1000 fewer staff, because it had cut 900 jobs, and had not applied to cover the wages of casual workers.
O'Brien said that employers had to show that any redundancy was reasonable "in all the circumstances".
"So for those employees who got dismissed at the end of the first subsidy, they might be able to argue ... that Skycity had this other subsidy available, it could have applied.
"I guess the issue is if they had to top employees up above that."
Julie Liu lost her job in the first round of redundancies, but said she was lucky to have some savings and had found part-time work. She had worked at SkyCity for 21 years, making her way up from a cashier at a Chinese restaurant to a duty manager.
"The feelings are quite mixed," Liu said. "We understand that Covid-19 has had a big impact everywhere.
"But It has been 20 years' service, and for it to suddenly stop, it makes you feel strange. When I see the [Skycity] tower, it feels like part of my life. It seems like something is lost."