Kmart staff members in Melbourne will receive replacement wages until 26 October, as the city is set to remain under strict Covid-19 restrictions to battle the disease.
In a statement on Wednesday, Kmart Group managing director Ian Bailey took direct aim at the Victorian government over the restrictions while promising to support permanent and casual staff who were unable to carry out their roles during the coming few weeks.
Casual workers who regularly work at least 12 hours a week will receive the equivalent pay over the period, while those who work fewer hours will be paid the equivalent of two weeks of normal rostered hours.
“The Victorian Government’s roadmap for re-opening the state economy announced last Sunday took the retail sector and Kmart Group by complete surprise. We were not provided with any forewarning in relation to the massive extension to the continued closure of retail trading that was announced,” Bailey said.
“Best case scenarios will see our stores start to re-open from October 26 which means, our stores will have been closed in metro Melbourne for a minimum of 12 weeks. This is unprecedented for the Kmart Group – and retail trading – in Melbourne.”
He said the extension is a “source of concern and frustration” for workers in its national office, distribution centres and physical stores, and said the company has gone to “considerable expense” to cover the wages.
“We recognise how important it is to stand by our team members who, through no fault of their own, are unable to work,” Bailey said.
“We believe it’s important the Victorian Government takes a holistic approach and we will continue to encourage the Government to support all businesses and individuals that have sacrificed so much during this pandemic.”
Bailey said the support comes despite the group not receiving JobKeeper payments.
Kmart owner Wesfarmers in August posted a net profit after tax of $2.1 billion, with Kmart Group’s revenue growing 7.2 per cent to $9.2 billion over the year. However, it also saw a $222 million loss as it restructured Target.
Wesfarmers boss on Monday also took aim at the Victorian government, saying there must be a better plan.
"The biggest concern with the health issues is that aged care and the healthcare system seem to be responsible for the vast majority of cases, and it’s not clear what strategies are in place to address that,” Scott said.
"We just feel it's possible to have a better plan – a smarter plan that doesn't compromise health objectives but does less damage to people and the economy. It's about being smarter and being more fact based."