Tuesday, 11 August 2009

how to pay less than the minimum wage

got this via email:

Ms Jewitt is training to be a hairdresser. It’s an entry course only but after three months she'll become a full-time student and she'll be eligible for the student allowance. But for now, she's penniless.

Recently she scored herself a retail job at Overland shoes in Hamilton. It earns her the minimum wage - $12.50 an hour. She travels in every Saturday from Te Pahu, 30 kilometres out of Hamilton.... After tax, Ms Jewitt ends up with $50 in her pocket.

All was going well until Ms Jewitt’s manager told her she had to start wearing new season Overland shoes. Not just wear them, the manager said she had to buy a new pair every three months. There’s nothing in her contract about it but the dress code in the Overland staff booklet says employees are expected to wear “current season footwear."

The discount policy in the overland booklet states when she buys her first pair of $300 shoes she'll receive 75% off which means the shoes cost her $75.00. After that first pair, the discount becomes smaller and smaller. It drops to 50% and then 25%.

The Manager told Ms Jewitt that she is on a three month probation period and by not wearing the shoes she was not committed to the job.

read the full story, it gets worse. this is an expected result of the "fire-at-will" law for the first 90 days of employment. it's an exploitation of young workers, placing unreasonable demands on those in a vulnerable situation. as the government is keeping no records or information around the effects of this law, there is no way to determine how many other workers are being fired for refusing to comply with unreasonable demands such as this.

basically, if the company wants their staff to be wearing their footwear, they should provide it free of charge. in the meantime, like ms jewitt, i'll be buying my shoes elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

Err this has nothing to do with the fire at will policy. We were seeing case like and worse than this before that. It's commonplace.

Sure it is exploitation, but the mere fact that she got a job where an employer is safe knowing an employee can be trialled first is also important. I have worked on both sides of the coin and whilst not all employers are not perfect - NEITHER are employees.

The 90 day bill won't change what makes a good employer or not.

Tui said...

Except, anon, where before this law was passed Ms Jewitt's employer's threat to fire her would have been illegal, now it's legal. I think that's quite a big difference, actually.

Lucy said...

whilst not all employers are not perfect - NEITHER are employees.

Yeah, those unreasonable employees, not wanting to spend their entire month's wages on shoes they'd wear five hours a week. Dude, derail much?

Hugh said...

I can see what you're saying Tui, but I think it is worth noting that even back in the good old days when employers couldn't fire somebody for refusing to follow this kind of policy, many of them were still able to enforce it. So, a big difference in theory, but possibly not so big in practice.

Chris Bright said...

I'm amazed that there is anyone actually defending OL on that 3News site, (although I suspect they're all the same person).
No one should have to pay their employer to retain their job.

Whilst this practise was probably not unheard of before, I'm sure that the 90 day bill has just made it easier to terminate employees who wont play along. It's just easier to hide now.

A Nonny Moose said...

I'm pissed, but not surprised that retail clothing/footwear "cajole" (the nicest term I could think of) their staff to buy their product to be walking billboards. I see it everywhere I shop, and feel real sorry for the staff - some of the girls (let's say the cuddlier ones - whole new issue there in fashion stores) even look uncomfortable. Way to make money.

When I worked in retail 20 years ago (department store) I was supplied with a uniform. Not ideal (homgenization of staff really sucks), but at least my clothing was paid for. Some companies still do it (I knew Westpac had a Uniform Allowance a few years back - do they still?).

Wearing store product is not a uniform. If you want to institute a uniform policy, the employer must pay for the uniform.

Boganette said...

Yeah this story doesn't surprise me.

I worked at Max for about two months while I was at Uni. I had to wear the clothes which I hated. We got a discount but I still hated wearing those clothes.

I even had one of the floor girls telling me what I should wear "not so much black! Please!".

But the thing that pissed me off the most was being bitched at for not wearing heels. You're on 'the floor' for eight hours. Why the Hell would you want to do it in heels?

I quit when they told me I had to wear make-up "For the love of God can you at least wear mascara and lipstick? Lipstick isn't even make-up!".

I told them to get fucked. I think they were thrilled to see me go.

spikybombshell said...

There was a similar issue surrounding Glassons forcing their staff to buy new season clothing constantly. I think it was taken to the human rights commission.

These policies mean the people earning the least in society have to waste their money on expensive consumer items.

SimonD said...

Clearly this case is exploitation.

However this case shouldn't be used to condemn the 90 day trial bill. In these times of high unemployment this law has real advantages in encouraging firms to hire when they may have been previously been reluctant to do so.

By way of example, my father runs a small business. He is actively turning away business because he is reluctant to take on the responsibility of hiring someone who may later turn out to be a dud. For really small businesses a wrong choice for him could sink his business. A 90 day trial would make a real difference in allowing him the chance to expand his business and offer increased employment.

stargazer said...

but simon, he could have had a 90-day trial period under the old legislation. the only difference is that he couldn't have fired an employee for spurious reasons, but only due to their lack of performance. which is as it should be.

Brett Dale said...

I worked for a certain telecommunications company in 2002, (as a data entry clerk) I was on the minimum wage at the time, they decided to put us on salary and told us

"You dont have to come into the office on Sunday, but we expect you to be here"

Being put on salary, meant of course we werent paid overtime at all.

They then decided if we wanted to, we could come in, out of office hours and do more work.

Basically we were working over 50 hours on a 40 hour minimum wage, weekly salary.

Julie said...

Being on a salary doesn't have to mean you work extra hours for no more money.

For example at my work we are on a salary, but if we work above 37.5 hours a week then we can get time off in lieu hour for hour (and more than hour for hour for weekend work). So there's a commitment that on average you will work 37.5 hours, just in one week you may have to do some extra (like this week I've done two night meetings), then you can take time off later.

Salary is just a way of paying people, which works differently from an hourly wage, but doesn't always have to mean no time off in lieu or overtime.

Brett Dale said...

This company i worked for, seemed to think we are paid a salary and we had to work at least 40 hours for it, and that salary is to cover any extra hours we do.