Earlier this week I was invited to speak to more than 100 industry and business leaders at a breakfast function hosted by Outward Bound New Zealand on the topic of "building performance through people".
I was asked to speak by Outward Bound because SkyCity is widely regarded as having one of the strongest employee cultures in New Zealand. We didn't achieve this reputation by accident.
SkyCity, the largest single-site private-sector employer in central Auckland, prides itself on being an "employer of choice" and we work very hard to recruit and retain the very best people throughout our business of more than 6000 staff across five sites in New Zealand and Australia.
Recently our work was recognised at the South Australian Training Awards, when the company was named Adelaide's Employer of the Year. We also recently achieved second place in the YWCA New Zealand Equal Pay Awards.
Just this week SkyCity was immensely proud to receive the Rainbow Tick, which accredits us as one of only a handful of New Zealand employers that officially embraces and fosters diversity of sexual orientation in our workforce.
We've just opened our latest intake of our apprentice chef programme - the largest in the country - that sees trainees earn qualifications on the job while working in paid positions across our 20 bars and restaurants.
You may not know that SkyCity has also partnered with Work and Income New Zealand on our restaurants and bars pre-employment training programme, entitled The Journey. This programme offers long-term unemployed people the opportunity to gain valuable hospitality skills to enhance their employability within SkyCity. Over half of those attending the programme have now been employed.
Our Best Pasifika leadership course, led by world-renowned Kiwi athlete Beatrice Faumuina, puts aspiring Pasifika staff through an 18-month university-approved business course. Graduates have gone on to senior leadership positions in the company. SkyCity is actually a leading employer of Pasifika people, who make up around 15 per cent of our total workforce.
Another thing many people probably don't know is that we don't pay minimum wage. All SkyCity employees throughout New Zealand and Australia are paid above the minimum wage. It's our policy.
We are also one of the few New Zealand companies to have a team of full-time, dedicated employee advocates. They can help with everything from interest-free personal loans for emergencies through to counselling, positive parenting, advice and even support to quit smoking.
SkyCity also looks after its staff by offering subsidised meals, discounted car parking and a wide range of other benefits. We recognise how valuable human capital is, and we believe we are a leading New Zealand employer.
We're not alone in this view. SkyCity has more than 150,000 people registered on its careers portal, www.skycitycareers.co.nz, seeking work within our company.
I was concerned, therefore, at media attention over the previous week regarding one of our staff who made some comments at our recent annual meeting, claiming she had been badly treated by the company.
I've taken a personal interest in the case since SkyCity's reputation as a first-class employer is very important to me. And without breaching the employee's privacy, I feel I do need to set the record straight for Herald readers.
The staff member concerned has not had her shifts reduced from two to one a week, as was reported. In fact, since the new roster came into effect in August, she has been offered between two and four shifts a week.
I need to stress also that we have most certainly not reduced her pay.
Indeed, the only change is that we've asked her, and all our table games staff, to work a more flexible roster, across the week, to better reflect the times when people want to visit our casino. We did this following an extensive period of consultation over many months, which also involved the union of which the employee is a member.
So any claim that SkyCity has acted unilaterally on this issue is also manifestly untrue.
As any employer knows, it can be hard to please everyone with shift changes. But SkyCity is committed to acting in good faith and following due process. We will resolve this issue in a fair and reasonable manner.
We at SkyCity are extremely proud of our staff, our managers, and those who govern us. We believe we are a best-practice employer.
In the coming months, I will have more to say about our commitment to youth employment and a new welfare to work programme we are resourcing in conjunction with the Sustainability Business Council of New Zealand.
As always, there are two sides to every story.