An essential service provider says it is disappointed its in-house construction workers have been denied permission to travel outside of Auckland during current alert levels. The travel restriction is preventing the creation of over 100 retail sector jobs in regions around the country.
Abhinav Gupta, spokesperson for Shosha, NZ’s largest retailer of e-cigarettes, says they need their team of four specialist builders to travel from Auckland to fit out 20 new stores around the country as part of their expansion programme.
The new stores in areas like; Kaitaia, Matamata, Morrinsville, Wairoa, Waitara, Tawa, Paraparaumu, Masterton, Waipukurau, Te Awamutu, Te Puke, Tokoroa, Huntly and Wainuiomata will provide local communities with employment opportunities and products which support smoking cessation programmes.
Gupta says all four of its construction team members have received both doses of their Pfizer vaccine and are frustrated they are unable to work.
“This team has worked on all of our other 92 retail stores and are experts in the fit-outs required for the 20 new stores,” he says.
“They are keen to work, despite being fully vaccinated these guys are voluntarily having a weekly COVID test just to ensure they are cleared and ready to travel at a moment’s notice,” he says.
Gupta says their application for an exemption has been turned down several times despite the fact they are considered an essential services provider.
He says they are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent on the leased stores which they can’t access.
“As a smoking cessation supplier, we are considered an essential service provider, yet we’re unable to meet the need at a regional level. While some products can be ordered online many of our customers prefer to visit the store to seek advice on quit smoking products.
“I can’t understand why many other essential services are free to travel outside of Auckland while others like ourselves are restricted.
“As a business, we need greater transparency around when the Auckland borders will reopen,” he says.
Gupta says as well as the inability to fulfil the new roles and train staff, he is concerned about the impact on potential customers.
“We have signs up saying we are due to open and we keep getting calls from those wanting to start smoking cessation efforts asking us when we will start trading,” he says.