JB Hi-Fi says the Unite union shouldn’t be targeting the company in New Zealand with strike action because it pays more highly than other local retailers. In a statement last week, the union said it had been negotiating with JB Hifi management for more than six months for a wage rise for member workers under a collective agreement. The statement said JB Hi-Fi workers are paid $13.50 per hour in New Zealand, saying Australian staff are paid nearly twice as much. It says the workers haven’t had a pay rise in nearly two years. Unite organiser Omar Hamed said it was negotiating on behalf of 100 JB Hifi workers nationwide. JB Hi-Fi’s Australian-based CEO Richard Uechtritz says comparisons between rates of pay in the two countries aren’t warranted because of differences in factors including taxes and costs of living. Uechtritz says JB Hi-Fi’s rate of pay is above the $12.75 minimum wage rate paid by some other retailers in New Zealand, saying this is the rate given by The Warehouse, Harvey Norman, Number One Shoes and Noel Leeming. “There’s something wrong in targeting JB Hi-Fi,” he says. “If they want to get their members a pay rise it would be easier to use our payment as a good example and get people up to $13.50. Why pick on one of the top paying retailers?” JB Hi-fi always pays “above what it should pay” to obtain the best staff, he says. Unite said the approximately 100 member workers planned further pickets after disrupting operations at the chain’s Wellington store last Friday. These plans included rallies outside flagship stores. Referring to the industrial action, Uechtritz says JB Hi-Fi “won’t be caving in to demands like that”. “If any staff wanted to work for other [retailers] in New Zealand, they’d be going backwards.” 100 staff represents a small proportion of the company’s workforce in New Zealand, says Uechtritz.
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