FRIDAY, AUGUST 31: Supermarket staff are furious that they have been left out of pocket following the closure of their store.
Now former workers at White & Sons in Warwick have banded together to demand pay and other benefits they say is owed to them following the chain’s collapse.
The group said that the firm’s closing down sale earlier this month had netted around $200,000, but that staff had yet to receive their last two weeks’ pay, or other benefits.
They say health insurance, pension and social insurance contributions, although deducted from pay cheques, had not been forwarded on for months.
We spoke in person to five members of the group yesterday.
One former employee, who asked not to be named, said some former workers were struggling to pay this month’s rent while others could not afford to buy groceries.
She added: “I’ve been told that some won’t be able to meet the rent and that they don’t even have any food in the house. It’s not a well-paid sector and a lot of people had to live pay cheque to pay cheque.”
Vicky Walker, who worked for White’s for 35 years, said: “We have been made redundant — as far as the staff are concerned, we want what is owed to us. The full package, nothing partial. I went to White’s as a young girl — I’ve been there all my life, really and I would have expected to be treated better.”
She added that the 85 staff spread across the three stores, owned by brothers Gary and Michael White, had been kept in the dark about the firm’s situation — until liquidators from accountancy firm KPMG took over earlier this month.
Ms Walker said: “If they had come to us and said there were problems and ‘this is the situation’, we could all have banded together and tried to help the situation. They should have at least have been honest with their staff and let us know ahead of time so we could try to get another job.”
Colleague Wendy Symons, a cashier who worked at White’s for 14 years, added: “I was there a long time and I expected to be treated better... They were not loyal to us. They must have known they were in trouble and they should have spoken to the staff.
“All I want now is my money. They should have said ‘this is what is happening, you have the option to look for another job’. They didn’t do that.”
Ceita Butterfield, who worked in the back office for 15 years, added: “That’s what we’re being made to feel like — that we’ve basically worked for nothing. If that does happen, all hell will break loose.”
Shawn Grant, a manager, said he had quit his job at another supermarket five months ago to move to White’s — only to lose his job.
He said: “Because my length of time was short, I feel for the rest of the staff. There were staff who were when the White brothers’ father was around. The average length of service is 14 or 15 years.
“When you have that kind of loyalty given to a company, it’s hard. It’s a financial thing, but also an emotional thing. I would hope the staff find something else, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Liquidators KPMG said last night: “We have no comment to make at the moment.”
Attempts to contact the White brothers were unsuccessful.