Staff facing layoffs at The Warehouse are 'suicidal' and 'in a bad way' following the country's largest retailer's plans to overhaul the way it operates, according to a union.

The Warehouse said it knew about two people signed off of work by their GP due to related stress but did not know of suicidal staff. A spokesperson said the company has a suicide support policy and would "take any hint of suicide very seriously".

Pejman Okhovat, chief executive of The Warehouse, added the company had been in constant contact with team members and had offered "a range of support" including paid-for counselling to staff affected by the proposals.

The company is proposing a number of changes within its business, including closing its regional fulfilment centres and opening a centralised facility to improve the company's online shopping service.

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Along with that, eight stores have been subject to a radical "pilot" scheme which has resulted in significant changes to staff rosters.

First Union national coordinator Kate Davis said the union's concern was far greater than the retail company's plans to close 11 regional fulfilment centres and centralise its operations.

"Our real concern is the pilot that is being run in the Bay of Plenty [and Hawke's Bay], that's going to affect hundreds of workers," Davis said.

The pilot scheme began in March and will be completed on May 31 - that's when workers will find out if they will still have jobs.

"They are calling it a pilot and a change in hours but in eight stores they gave workers rosters with no hours on them. They reissued rosters and disestablishing all shifts.

"We've got workers who have gone from 38.5 hours per week that have been rostered three 3-hour shifts or no shift in some instances. In the new rosters there are one-hour shifts, two-hour shifts and three-hour shifts," Davis said.

The Warehouse said hours had been reduced in some instances but there were no cases of individuals receiving zero or stand-alone one, two or three-hour shifts.

Davis said it was impossible to know just how many people the "pilot programme" would affect at this stage.

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"There's eight stores and you're looking at over 100 workers at each store."

Davis said The Warehouse wanted the plans for its distribution centre finalised within a month. It was proposed with workers on May 14.

"We're concerned about how the workers are being treated and how the changes are being introduced and why there is a perceived lack of job, why the company is touting this as possible redundancies."

The Warehouse said it would need 100 jobs for the centralised distribution facility.

"They said there was going to be new roles available at the distribution centre which will be great for the Auckland workers, however, with the pilot in the regional areas and Auckland they have failed to impose and kind of hiring freeze. They told the union they would put a hiring freeze across all brands - that has not occurred."

Some staff had received blank rosters since changes, and Davis said she had received correspondence from workers that were "considering bad things" following changes to rosters at the eight stores.

"People are in a really bad place, workers with suicidal thoughts, people worried they won't be able to pay their mortgage - it has been the worst two months in my work as union organiser."

Pejman Okhovat, chief executive of The Warehouse. Photo / File
Pejman Okhovat, chief executive of The Warehouse. Photo / File

First Union was worried the pilot programme would be rolled out wider than the eight stores indicated, she said.

"The changes are still at proposal stage and we have asked team members for feedback. In any change, re-deployment is always our first option and if the proposals go ahead we will look to re-deploy as many people as possible," Okhovat said.

"The pilot at the eight stores overall is offering more hours, not less so there are shift options available. We acknowledge change can be difficult and we always do our best to ensure team members are fully supported. If and when we hear of any team member struggling in any way we will ensure support is there for them."

We acknowledge change can be difficult and we always do our best to ensure team members are fully supported.

In the announcement this morning, Okhovat said the pilot in its eight stores would "test how the implementation of an updated labour operating model and rosters will improve our in-store customer experience".

"The updated labour operating model reflects the changing patterns of customer behaviour, particularly as online and omnichannel gain importance for customers shopping habits. Until August last year, the model had remained largely unchanged for several years despite significant changes in customer expectations and the way we run our stores," Okhovat said.

The pilot would start next month and test changes to roster hours and assess the impact of the changes "which we anticipate will enable a more consistent customer experience in store, support better store planning, improve job satisfaction for our teams and ensure a fairer allocation of available hours for team members."

First Union said The Warehouse had not provided figures on the proposed number of redundancies but estimated that it would be more than the indicated 150 staff.

The company will provide its staff within an update on fulfilment proposals tomorrow.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.