Noni B fires back at union's staff safety claims

Noni B fires back at union's staff safety claims

Noni B claims it is "deeply concerning and indeed disappointing" that the SDA would make "misleading statements" to the media.

Women's fashion retailer Noni B (ASX: NBL) has implied recent complaints around staff safety are merely a smokescreen to "attempt to coerce" the company into changing an enterprise agreement with its workers.

Several media outlets have reported numerous complaints received by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA) from Noni B employees.

"These practices have included setting out to unilaterally cut hours for part-time workers by 20 per cent without proper consultation and understaffing stores which has placed excessive sales demands and work tasks on remaining retail staff," SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer was quoted as saying in MyBusiness.

"In some cases, this deliberate understaffing meant retail employees were at times left in stores alone and could not take toilet breaks or were forced to lift heavy boxes and work up ladders in an unsafe manner," he was quoted as saying.

Dwyer also noted the union had a number of matters with Noni B before the Fair Work Commission.

But the retailer itself has come back firing today, claiming the grievances are part of the union's campaign against a proposed enterprise agreement which has been approved by 81 per cent of relevant employees.

"Noni B believes that the SDA's campaign is not in the best interests of its members and perhaps based on an incomplete understanding of the facts," the company said in a statement.

"The wellbeing and safety of all noni B Group team members are paramount and at the core of the Group's corporate values. The Group is very proud of its safety record and achievements in promoting the welfare and wellbeing of its team members.

"It is deeply concerning and indeed disappointing to the Group that the SDA would take this course of action, publicising unsubstantiated safety concerns in an attempt to coerce the company to change a widely supported Enterprise Agreement."

The retailer described the SDA's comments about unilateral roster reductions and forced signed contracts as "misleading".

"This is despite Noni B Group communicating clearly with the SDA on these matters," the company said.

"Despite Noni B Group's willingness to meet with the SDA to discuss its concerns, particularly related to safety, disappointingly the SDA has been unwilling to meet to discuss these issues.

"If the SDA is aware of any safety issues that it has not raised with the Group, the Group remains ready and willing to meet with SDA representatives to understand and, if appropriate, clarify or address them."

The group added it was proud of its ability to turn around underperforming retailers and transform them into long-term sustainable businesses for all team members, customers and shareholders.

"Following the acquisition of the assets of the loss-making Specialty Fashion Group brands, 2019 is a year of transformation for Noni B Group," the company said. 

"The Group is pleased with progress to date and, as always, is seeking to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to maintain its success.

"The Group is disappointed that the SDA appears to be working to stand in the way of its team members' receiving above-award pay and enhanced leave entitlements."

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