‘Risk to jobs’ if Countdown rat problem drags on

First Union says there is a risk jobs could be lost if the Countdown rat scandal drags on.

Woolworths New Zealand said its Countdown Dunedin South supermarket would remain closed until at least Friday after another rat was caught at the store yesterday.

The store has been closed since February 10, when the company said the supermarket would close for 48 hours — one weekend — in order to deal with a rat issue.

Now, the store must remain closed until both the Ministry for Primary Industries’ New Zealand Food Safety agency and Woolworths are satisfied newly imposed additional pest-control measures have worked.

Successive rat sightings on in-store cameras and captures in traps mean the store has not been able to pass a 48-hour "clear air" period required to reopen.

If it reopens on Friday it will have been closed for 13 straight days.

A Woolworths spokeswoman yesterday confirmed another rat was caught at the store yesterday morning.

However, she quashed rumours staff were being asked to take leave.

"We have given our Dunedin South team the options of completing work in-store, working in another nearby store or taking annual leave if they would prefer to," the spokeswoman said.

"Our team isn’t required to take leave or being asked to take leave — there’s lots of work available."

First Union organiser Angus Wilson said while a few staff at the store had chosen to take leave they were "not required to — it is a choice".

The union was quite confident the company would stick to its promises and obligations and look after the staff, Mr Wilson said.

There were a lot of factors at play that were outside the company’s or the union’s control, he said.

However, the information he had been privy to suggested matters were improving at the store.

The issue was the ministry requirement of "full eradication".

He thought the requirement was a good idea, but it would take longer than the company would like.

"I think they would prefer the doors back open. I certainly would too.

"I would certainly like to see the members back to work, but under the right conditions.

"Yes, there is a risk of this dragging on and it could potentially cause some risk to those members’ jobs and we don’t want to see that happen.

"And certainly if the worst-case was to happen and the store did close, we would expect that Countdown would look after its employees and help them to get jobs in the other stores — in a worst-case scenario.

"But I don’t believe it will get to that point."