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Holiday season could see unions target retailers

Cotton On Manukau workers on strike. Source: First Union Facebook.

The upcoming holiday season could prove to be more stressful than profitable for New Zealand retailers due to bullish retail unions, according to industrial relations consultancy Adelhelm & Associates.

Unions are likely to target retailers during the key Christmas period, when businesses may be more keen to agree to demands for the sake of sales, said Adelhelm & Associates negotiations expert Anna Holmes.

“Unions will ramp up their action towards Christmas because they know that retailers really need the Christmas sales and so won’t want to do anything that impacts sales as a result of poor public perception,” Holmes said.

Holmes noted that retailers are already feeling the sting of lessening disposable income due to fuel taxes, higher insurance costs and declining house prices.

“It couldn’t come at a worse time… they have to cut costs and keep wage increases to a minimum, but the unions won’t want a bar of that,” she said.

The retail industry has been rife with demands that New Zealand business raise their minimum wage to meet the standard of a living wage this year – something that has been adopted by some, and avoided by others. 

Unmet demands have led to strikes and industrial action across the industry, with staff from many New Zealand retailers taking to the streets to make their demands heard. 

“If you go in hard and tell the union you can’t afford a wage increase, then make sure you understand what kind of impact strike action will have on your business,” Holmes said. 

“The moment you take a hard-line, you ruffle feathers and it becomes emotional and nobody wins.”

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