Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's "angry" with The Warehouse Group after it announced at least 1000 jobs will be axed.
The country's largest retailer, which took almost $67.7 million from the wage subsidy across its brands, yesterday said it would be closing six more stores and cutting 130 people from its headquarters.
The wage subsidy scheme is due to end tomorrow.
Ardern told RNZ this morning The Warehouse had promoted itself as being "in the community and for the community".
"I'm angry. If I'm speaking frankly."
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Ardern said she'd been getting hundreds of letters from small-business owners trying to keep their staff and stay afloat by running down whatever reserves they had.
"The Government of course, and taxpayers, are taking a huge hit because we are prioritising keeping as many businesses and individuals employed and up and running as we can.
"I'd like to see the same attitude applied by some of our larger organisations in New Zealand - that's how I feel."
She was hesitant to comment on the decision for The Warehouse's executives to only have a pay cut until the end of June.
But speaking to media later in the day, Ardern's comments on The Warehouse were less damning.
"At a time when I hear and see so many small businesses doing everything they can to keep on their workforce, that's the sort of attitude we want in New Zealand right now."
She said she understands that a lot of businesses are doing it tough – "but the Government is doing everything it can to help support them to keep workers on".
She called on The Warehouse to "speak frankly" about some of the business issues it was going through, given it indicated the reason for the layoffs was not solely down to Covid-19.
At the end of April, The Warehouse asked staff earning more than $60,000 to take a 10 per cent pay cut and those earning more than $100,000 to take 20 per cent cut due to a "significant" revenue drop during the lockdown.
"But I think it's fair to say this is an extraordinary time and there are organisations that are taking a huge hit but they're prioritising their people as much as they can rather than just a singular focus on the shareholder," said Ardern.
The stores set to close under the proposal are:
• Noel Leeming Henderson Clearance Centre.
• Noel Leeming Tokoroa.
• The Warehouse Whangaparaoa, Johnsonsville and Dunedin Central stores.
• The Warehouse Stationery Te Awamutu store.
The closures are in addition to an earlier announcement that the Warehouse store in Birkenhead in July, and Noel Leeming stores in Papanui and The Palms in Christchurch would also close.
"I am angry, I do think that they're a company that's promoted themselves as being in the community and for the community.
"I accept that they've been undergoing a bit of a restructure, well if that's the reason that they're doing it, that should be the reason that they give," said Ardern.
Chief executive Nick Grayston said the company was moving towards an "agile business model".
"Based on our insights into changing shopping habits and the anticipated economic impacts caused by Covid-19, we are accelerating some changes that had already been planned," said Grayston.
"Value for money has never been more important to our customers and in order to continue to deliver this, we need to manage our costs and run our business more efficiently."
Ardern is this morning in the Bay of Plenty and has visited Trevelyan's kiwifruit and avocado packhouse and coolstore in Te Puke.
Kiwifruit industry leaders from Zespri, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc and Kiwifruit Vine Health have also joined her, as well as MPs Tamati Coffey and Angie Warren-Clark, for the walk through.