Supermarket pricing, staffing, stock in govt spotlight

The government is keeping close tabs on the nation's supermarket duopoly through the national lockdown and ministers will tomorrow discuss a range of topics facing the grocery chains.

Pricing, staffing and stock levels are among issues that will be discussed before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives a more general update on supermarkets, she said at today's daily media briefing.

"It is something that we're keeping a very watchful eye on every element - the amount of stock that people are seeing, the ability of supermarkets to restock, and any pricing issues," she said.

Supermarkets faced unprecedented demand in the lead up to the lockdown, with record sales as people stocked up before hunkering down for a month.

That's led to claims of some price hikes and Ardern said Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi had been quick to contact supermarket bosses over those accusations.

Last week, Faafoi directed the Commerce Commission to adopt a looser interpretation of competition laws to recognise the national emergency. However, price gouging or hoarding won't be tolerated.

Ministers will also discuss whether to let supermarkets trade through the Good Friday and Easter Sunday holiday – two days that most retailers are prohibited from opening on.

Ardern said the government is in frequent contact with the chief executives of the supermarket chains and will raise the Easter trading issue with them as well. A decision would need to be made soon, she said.

"But I would like to talk to the leadership within the chains just because of workforce issues and so on."

Ardern said she was also getting advice from Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway about reports that some supermarket operators were requiring at-risk staff – those over 70 or with compromised immunity – to take annual and unpaid leave.

Sick leave subsidies have been rolled into the wider wage support package, which can only be accessed by firms hit by Covid-19.

Ardern said that meant supermarkets were in a an unusual position in that they hadn't experienced a downturn from Covid-19, and she was seeking more advice on the matter.

New Zealand registered its first death from the Covid-19 outbreak – a West Coast woman in her seventies with underlying health issues.

There were another 63 confirmed and probable cases, taking the country's total to 514. Of that, there have been 56 recoveries.

Ardern said it was too early to draw any conclusions from the number of new cases so far.

"We must remember that there is a considerable lag time in any of our results. That's one important thing to keep in mind," she said.

"We all need to be vigilant. No-one can be complacent and no-one's willing to draw any conclusions yet."

Comments

Cheers Jacinda you don't keep a watchful eye on supermarkets exploiting and profiteering..try the hefty fine approach.. that would put a lid on greedy businesses.

Why were supermarkets given the green light to continue to operate when other food places were told to close their doors?, places like Couplands and Bin Inn could still be operating and taking the pressure off the supermarkets, food is food I would have thought no matter which shop you get it from.

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