Earlier this week, a Bunnings Dunedin staff member told the Otago Daily Times (ODT) that management forced its staff to gift the store’s defibrillator to a community group.
According to the ODT, the leaked email featured Bunnings’ New Zealand manager Jacqui Coombes saying the defibrillator was removed because “as a group, we do not hold defibrillators at our stores”.
“There are a number of reasons for this, including maintenance of the units and the availability of trained teams to operate the units,” she said in the email.
A petition was signed by most of the store’s staff to keep the life-saving machine in store, as the staff members had a personal connection to the machine.
Bunnings social club members raised $1300 to buy the machine three years ago after a colleague died from a heart condition.
After public backlash, the retailer has reversed this decision and marketing manager Valerie Staley says it will be working with a “respected provider” to put defibrillators in five stores, including Dunedin, Gisborne and Nelson.
“We will also continue to honour our commitment to donate any existing units to local community groups,” Staley said.
The retailer stressed that there was misinformation circulating about its stance on defibrillators.
It said defibrillators were never ‘confiscated’ from stores, cost was never a factor when making a decision on the matter and First Union never raised the matter for discussion.
First Union, the union representing Bunnings workers, said it welcomed the decision.
“Having a defibrillator on hand can mean the difference between life and death. Bunnings decision to remove defibrillators they didn’t own and didn’t pay to maintain never made any sense,” First Union retail and finance secretary Maxine Gay said.
Retail NZ general manager of public affairs, Greg Harford, said there’s no obligation or expectation retailers should have defibrillators in store.
However, he said retailers will generally have an up-to-date first aid kit and trained first aiders on site.
“It’s important that employees and contractors are well-briefed on how to handle medical emergencies, where equipment is kept, and to call an ambulance in the event of a significant medical issue.”