Supermarket brings back deals, pay boost for workers

The Government  wants to ensure that supermarket supply chains, pricing, and customer and staff...
The Government wants to ensure that supermarket supply chains, pricing, and customer and staff welfare are all up to scratch. Photo: Getty Images
Supermarket giant Countdown is bringing back special deals for customers after widespread claims of price gouging during the lockdown.

The company says customers will "start to see specials return in stores nationwide over the course of this week and next as supplies rebuild and the country starts to settle into a calmer shopping pattern".

The announcement from Countdown came this morning, a day after New Zealand had its first Covid-19 related death.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that she was aware of public concern and discussion on social media about price increases at supermarkets during the lockdown of at least four weeks.

Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi was keeping a close eye on these concerns, she said.

Short-term special and promotions would start returning to Countdown stores because the supply-chain was rebuilding and customer demand evened out.

Supermarkets were busy over the weekend but the impact of Kiwis panic-buying was starting to mend, Countdown managing director Natalie Davis said.

"We are feeding more people than we ever have in our history," Davis said.

"We made the decision not to go ahead with planned promotions last week because we simply didn't have the stock in store for our customers.

"Thankfully that is beginning to repair itself as Kiwis heed the advice to shop normally."

In recognition of the essential service they were providing the country, Countdown staff would receive an increased wage.

In addition to the extra 10% per hour worked over the alert level 4 lockdown, staff with 12 months or more service would earn a minimum of the living wage of $21.25 an hour from September onwards.

The supermarket had also been paying any of its team who was required to self-isolate since February, including those deemed high risk by the Government.

"Caring for our team is very important to us, and more than ever at the moment, their health, safety and wellbeing is our utmost priority," Davis said.


Rival Foodstuffs says staff working through the coronavirus lockdown period are also being rewarded and thanked with a pay rise.

Foodstuffs has announced a 10% pay allowance on top of the normal pay cheque for any worker at a Pak'nSave, New World or Four Square outlet working through the month-long Covid-19 lockdown.

All waged front-line, distribution and transport staff nationwide will get the allowance over the next four weeks.

"This is in recognition of their willingness to ensure New Zealanders' grocery needs are met and for the tireless commitment they continue to show," a statement said.

Any staff member considered to be medically certified vulnerable - and therefore must self-isolate, rendering them unable to work - will also be fully paid during this period.

Foodstuffs North Island chief executive, Chris Quinn, said: "We are operating in extraordinary times and as the situation evolves, we learn and determine more about what we can do next as a business to support our people and New Zealand.

"We've been totally focused on keeping shelves full and ensuring our customers and teams are safe.


Supermarkets are set to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday as the Government places extra scrutiny on their behaviour.

The Cabinet meets again today and wants to ensure that supermarket supply chains, pricing, and customer and staff welfare are all up to scratch, given their importance to New Zealanders during the lockdown.

"We don't obviously have legal footing to enforce specials, but we can on price-gouging," Jacinda Ardern told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning. She added that the Government had seen no evidence of that so far.

While there had been issues of chickens being mistakenly weighted - and therefore mistakenly priced - and some supply issues, the Government had not found any price-gouging issues.

Ardern indicated she was keen on supermarkets opening on days that they were traditionally not allowed to, such as Good Friday and Easter Sunday, so as to give New Zealanders maximum access to food and essential supplies.

But she also wanted to check with supermarkets on whether they needed those days to help re-stock shelves. She said she would have more to say on supermarkets later today.

Ardern told Hosking the Government had resolved the issue of mixed messages over where people could and couldn't go in lockdown.

"I think the message around staying local has been clear... but no one has locked down New Zealand before. This is something we did in a 48-hour period. It wasn't always going to be perfect."

The Government was looking at the supply of products such as halal meat - and this was being resolved.

The Government and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had taken the approach of being as tight as possible on what represented essential services, and worked back from there.

Ardern and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield spoke about the chances of New Zealand coming down to level 3 in four weeks.

Bloomfield told Hosking that that might be possible if modelling showed the level 4 precautions were having a positive impact on the trend line of cases, and if, for example, New Zealand was returning to isolated cases.

Officials believe it will take around 10 days before we see any impact or trend from the lockdown rules, and whether they are working.

Ardern said it wasn't just the sheer number - but the type of cases. For example, if we got to the point of having 100% of cases originating from overseas cases, that was "under control somewhat" compared with other scenarios.

"We are still doing contact tracing on every case, even now."




""We made the decision not to go ahead with planned promotions last week because we simply didn't have the stock in store for our customers".
Certainly makes a mockery of what we were told "Supermarket giants insist there is plenty of food to go round and have urged people to shop normally", "Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs, Kiri Hannifin, who has one simple message she's sharing: "There's absolutely no need to panic buy or stockpile. We are so lucky, so blessed, that we as a nation are a net producer of food. There is plenty of food for everyone. We can look after our communities.".

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter