Hardware giant Bunnings will permanently close seven of its stores, leaving 145 of its employees without a job amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ashburton warehouse, trade centres in Hornby and Hastings, and stores in Cambridge, Rangiora, Te Awamutu and Putarur in New Zealand will completely stop trading by June 30.
For their last four weeks of employment, workers will be packing down the stores.
Locations are closing due to 'challenges of the recent trading environment' posed by the COVID-19 lockdown, which could be completely lifted in NZ by next week.
Bunnings NZ director Jacqui Coombes said on Wednesday that their number one priority is looking after their 145 soon-to-be-unemployed workers.
Bunnings workers cook during one of their famous sausage sizzles. There will soon be 145 unemployed Bunnings workers as seven stores in New Zealand will permanently closed by the end of the month
'Our absolute focus and priority now is the welfare of the 145 team members who are affected and we will work closely with them through this process,' Ms Coombes said.
'This was an incredibly difficult decision and like many New Zealand businesses in the current conditions, we needed to make a decision for the long-term performance of our business and our team of close to 4,500 people.'
In a statement, Bunnings said impacted team members will be redeployed to other locations 'where practical'.
But redeployment may not be practical for workers in Ashburton, where the next nearest store is 90 kilometres away in Christchurch.
In cases like this, Bunnings has promised 'a redundancy that reflects their years of service to their local communities and customers'.
The Bunnings store in Rangiora, one of seven locations in New Zealand to be shut down by June 30. The Ashburton warehouse, trade centres in Hornby and Hastings, and stores in Cambridge, Te Awamutu and Putarur will also be closed
First Union organiser Kirstin Miller said Bunnings' store closures in NZ were unjustified.
'They provided us with very scant financial information that only goes back to December. And yet they're trying to say that these stores hadn't been performing well for years with no information to back that up,' Ms Miller told stuff.co.nz.
The national union requested that Bunnings 'would come right following Covid' but the hardware giant had other plans.
Ms Miller said the 145 affected workers felt betrayed by the company, which has headquarters in Melbourne.
'They feel like the company doesn't care about them at all,' she said.
Bunnings staff have been banned from speaking to media by the company, according to Ms Miller.
A Bunnings worker monitors customer numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, there are 53 Bunnings stores in New Zealand but after seven shut down, that number will drop to 46.
Two more stores in Westgate and Queenstown are being developed, which will eventually bring the total to 48.
'Bunnings will continue to actively manage its portfolio in both the Australian and New Zealand markets,' the company statement read.
There are currently no plans to shut down Bunnings stores in Australia.
The 145 affected Bunnings employees are soon to be among the 116,000 unemployed people currently living in NZ.
NZ's employment rate jumped to 4 per cent in the March financial quarter, rising 4 per cent on the previous quarter.
The country is currently on 'Alert Level Two' of lockdown, meaning businesses are allowed to open provided they obey social distancing guidelines.
The cabinet is scheduled to discuss moving to 'Alert Phase One' no later than June 22 but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the country is 'ahead of schedule'.
A Bunnings carpark on the Gold Coast, Australia. There are currently no plans to shut down Bunnings stores in Australia