Submitted by Joe Hendren on Sat, 24/04/2010 - 12:00am.
It wouldn't be a bad job. Surrounded by makeup and perfume all day but one of New Zealand's biggest retailers can't seem to get anyone to do it.
As the unemployment rate reaches a 10-year high, with the number of unemployed people now standing at 168,000, Farmers is struggling to fill 30 jobs manning its beauty and fragrance counters.
The human resources department has been reduced to running recruitment evenings in Hamilton and Auckland to inform candidates about a career in the beauty industry and to identify the qualities that make sales professionals.
"We're interested in hearing from new beauty graduates, seasoned industry professionals and sales professionals looking for a change in industry," says Sheila Naidoo, head of HR for Farmers. According to recent statistics from the Department of Labour, there should be an overload of retail workers in the job market, said Ms Naidoo.
"Even if they don't have beauty industry experience, if they have a passion for beauty products and a desire to work with prestigious brands, we can train them," she said.
Lorraine Reay, Clinique counter manager at Farmers, Hamilton city store, prides herself on being able to connect with people.
"Being a counter manager is a bit like being a successful real estate agent. You have to think of yourself as being self-employed, even though you work for Farmers."
Ms Naidoo said Farmers was looking for staff like Ms Reay who had come to Farmers with previous experience in hospitality.
Ms Naidoo said Farmers was willing to look beyond an applicant's immediate work experience to fill the positions.
She said while beauty may be considered more of a female industry several men were doing well at Farmers.
David Marris, fragrance sales professional, celebrated his sixth anniversary at Farmers Hamilton store this month.
Asked what type of person is suited to a career in fragrance or cosmetics, Mr Marris said: "A focus on customer service is essential . . . and of course a love for the product certainly helps."
Ms Naidoo said the recruitment drive would start at the new Farmers store opening at The Base, in Te Rapa, Hamilton on May 4.
Vacancies galore: Lorraine Feay, of Clinique, and David Marris, of Fragrance in a Farmers store where their products are sold. However, Farmers is struggling to get good employees for its beauty departments.
Picture: KATRINA BIELESKI
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Sun, 21/02/2010 - 11:00pm.
The Government is considering a revamp of personal grievance laws. The moves include a crackdown on frivolous claims and new rules to control "no win, no fee" advocates who have been seen as ramping up claims against employers.
But unions are concerned that the Government is using the review to reduce employees' rights when they are sacked, including claims based on unfair process.
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said she had an open mind on whether changes were needed but a discussion document and questionnaire, yet to be approved by the Cabinet, would canvass what changes were needed. In some areas the law had tilted too far against employers.
Prime Minister John Key has said the Government "shares concern from many quarters about the fairness and consistency of personal grievance claims".
Ms Wilkinson said she wanted to ensure the regime was fair to both sides. "You hear stories anecdotally from employers who say, `Oh well, it's just too hard we will just pay some money to make it go away.' And that's not justice." She had also heard that some of the "no win, no fee" industrial law advocates "know their way around the procedures so well that, whatever the merits of the case, the employer might pay out".
Some employers who had a poorly performing employee, or one who was not working out, did not know how to resolve the issue. It was difficult to judge, because many cases were settled, paid out or withdrawn before they reached the Employment Relations Authority.
Of 2500 applications lodged with the ERA each year, only about 1000 go on to the first-stage investigative meeting.
She was also concerned that some cases might be "frivolous" and were clogging up the system.
She had consulted the Council of Trade Unions and Business New Zealand on the review. She said industrial relations law was generally working well, and did not need wholesale changes.
CTU president Helen Kelly said "no win, no fee" advocates tended to operate among non-unionised workers and moves to regulate them would not concern the CTU. But it had major concerns about other elements of the document. She said the Government saw procedural fairness and natural justice as an impediment when an employee was dismissed.
The remedies won through personal grievances were too low, she said. Surveys had found the average cost to employers was $5000, of which compensation paid to workers averaged $2800.
Thousands of employment relationships ended unfairly and employees did nothing about it, so a lot of employers got off lightly. The number of grievance cases was low, considering that about 600,000 people left their jobs each year.
Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said businesses had complained for years that the system was too bureaucratic and seemed to "emphasise form over substance". They were also concerned about "ambulance-chasing lawyers" that lodged claims with no real justification to pressure employers.
The Government is also reviewing the law covering vulnerable workers, mostly in cleaning, catering and laundry companies, whose jobs are protected if a contract changes hands.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Fri, 27/11/2009 - 1:45pm.
Auckland bus passengers are assured of 2 years of industrial peace after drivers agreed yesterday to end a long and bitter pay dispute.
About 600 NZ Bus drivers and cleaners voted by an 80 per cent majority to accept a company offer amounting to a 20c hourly pay rise in three instalments. That will lift the top hourly rate for drivers with at least nine months service to $17.45 now, $18.15 next year and $18.75 in February 2012.
The deal includes a minimum of $560 in backpay dated from July 5 and a $500 contribution from the Auckland Regional Transport Authority to wages lost when NZ Bus locked out 875 workers and suspended all its services for seven days last month.
Although the pay rises are the same as offered in a package rejected by 55 per cent of drivers at a rowdy and emotional meeting three weeks ago, union negotiators welcoming a softening of "clawbacks" sought by Infratil subsidiary, which provides 70 per cent of Auckland bus services.
Auckland Tramways Union president Gary Froggatt said the company dropped its demand to be able to review the jobs of drivers absent because of incapacity for more than two months, and had reverted to an existing three-month threshold. It also agreed to add just 24 hours to an existing 48-hour time limit for submitting complaints to drivers, which was half of what it sought earlier.
The deal retains a new weight limit of 115kg for driver recruits but the unions say that is outside their control as a pre-employment requirement, even though Auckland University of Technology nutrition and obesity expert Professor Elaine Rush believes it will discriminate against Polynesians, with higher average weights than other ethnic groups.
Drivers spoken to outside a Tramways Union meeting at Alexandra Park were generally pleased to have settled up before Christmas, given the added financial strain the festive season puts on families, but one said he believed they should have held out for more money. He believed the length of an agreement locking drivers into what he still considered to be low wages would make the company an attractive sale proposition.
Mr Froggatt acknowledged a general suspicion that Infratil may be grooming NZ Bus for sale, but said that gave the drivers no great concern as they had lost confidence in the company. He said that although hourly pay rates were now higher than that of other Auckland bus company, NZ Bus drivers received just time and a quarter for overtime hours and were determined to fight for time and a half after the new agreement expired.
Company operations general manager Zane Fulljames said NZ Bus was confident it had secured an agreement that would meet the needs "of our customers, our people and the business" and looked forward to rebuilding long-term relations with the four bus unions is it reshaped its operation. "This agreement allows us the stability and certainty to move forward with confidence into the Rugby World Cup 2011 and beyond," he said.
Regional transport authority chief executive Fergus Gammie also welcomed the return of stability for bus passengers.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Thu, 12/11/2009 - 3:08pm.
The best thing to have in business, South Island hotels entrepreneur Earl Hagaman once mused, is a monopoly. At the time he was intent on buying the Christchurch Casino because of its protected monopoly status. Compared with owning and running hotels in a highly competitive market, owning a monopoly like the casino was a business dream, Mr Hagaman reasoned.
By that logic, the next best thing must be a duopoly, where two big players have the market sewn up. This is the case in the New Zealand grocery market, where home-grown co-operative Foodstuffs and Australian-owned Progressive Enterprises dominate. Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show the giants are enjoying a very happy duopoly.
According to the OECD, grocery prices have risen 42 per cent in New Zealand in the past decade, while those in Australia, which also has a market dominated by two players, have risen 41 per cent. By comparison countries with more competition – Britain and the United States – have experienced more moderate rates of grocery price rises.
On the face of it there appears to be no shortage of competition between our big two. Both advertise extensively, constantly refreshing their offerings and rethinking their approach. The owner of Timaru's New World, under the Foodstuffs banner, has spent a small fortune redeveloping the Highfield supermarket and its mall and is taking on another 75 staff. You don't do that if you're not sitting pretty in a comfortable duopoly.
Likewise Progressive is spending up large to rebrand its Woolworths stores and its Church Street supermarket has just had a makeover.
While the big two argue their competition is cut-throat the suspicion is that it's become more of a handbags-at-dawn affair than a pitched battle. Critics believe they are going through the routine while protecting established positions which see the consumer lose out.
That is what the Australian Government believes and there has been a lot of jumping up and down about the OECD figures, and talk of bringing the "blowtorch" of competition to the incumbents.
In New Zealand The Warehouse had a crack at the duopoly and failed miserably. Supermarkets do have competition in the form of alternative meat and fruit and vegetable outlets, but there is precious little competition in terms of groceries.
In Timaru consumers have the option of a farmers' market. If the success of the first one, last weekend, is anything to go by, the supermarkets' traditional market is being nibbled around the edges. But until The Warehouse gets its act together, or someone else arrives, there seems precious little consumers or the Government can do.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Thu, 12/11/2009 - 2:09pm.
Waikato supermarket owners are "blown away" by figures showing a 42.5 per cent rise in food prices since 2000.
The news has prompted Labour consumer spokeswoman Carol Beaumont to call for the Government to encourage more competition in the supermarket sector.
New Zealand grocery prices have risen 42.5 per cent between 2000 and 2009, followed by Australia which pays 41.3 per cent more, Britain's prices rose 32.9 per cent and America's were up 28.4 per cent, according to a study out yesterday.
Pak `n Save Mill St owner Glenn Miller said he was trying to obtain a grocery bill from nine years ago as he and his staff doubted the cost of many grocery items had risen to that extent.
He said a can of spaghetti cost 90c in 2000 and now customers would pay $1.09 for the same can. "At Pak n Save the margin we enjoy is lower than many other countries in the world and we think we are still very competitive given manufacturing cost and we try and keep our overheads down," said Mr Miller, who believes Pak `n Save is extremely competitive.
Vege King owner Swaran Singh said prices at his Fairfield fruit and vegetable shop would have risen by up to 10 per cent at the most. In some cases prices had not changed. He said the price tag on asparagus had stayed at $3.99 since 2000.
Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown, Woolworths and Foodtown, blamed international events such as drought as the main drivers of food inflation. Progressive spokesman Bill Moore said the group was consistently striving to offer the best prices and its profitability had remained at between 3 and 4 per cent since Australian-owned Woolworths Limited purchased Progressive four years ago. The group said there was plenty of competition between supermarkets, delis, butchers, green grocers and bakeries.
But Ms Beaumont has questioned why New Zealand is not following the example of Australia's Competition Minister, Craig Emerson, whose government was taking "hard measures" and lowering the barriers to other retailers competing with Coles and Woolworths on that side of the Tasman.
She was critical of Consumer Affairs Minister Heather Roy's suggestion that New Zealanders "shop around" to combat some of the fastest-rising food prices in the developed world, saying it had attracted widespread criticism. It was "poor advice" to families struggling with soaring food bills, Ms Beaumont said.
Public comments on news websites and on talkback radio produced a stream of consumers critical of grocery pricing, with many calling for overseas chains such as Aldi and Costco to compete against New Zealand's Foodstuffs (which owns Pak `n Save and New World) and Progressive Enterprises.
Hamish Wilson, of Consumer New Zealand, said there had been some attempts by other companies, such as The Warehouse, to break into the supermarket sector "but it's pretty difficult". The controversy arose in the wake of the Australian study which says the price of food in New Zealand has risen faster than in any other OECD country other than Korea.
- With NZPA