The statement was posted as a status on Cotton On’s Facebook page yesterday and caused confusion among Facebook users.
Facebook users asked why it’s been widely reported they tried to take away tea breaks and what the negotiations with First Union are about if they have has “always intended” to maintain them.
The value clothing retailer has been in negotiations with the First Union for retail workers over a collective agreement for staff at Cotton On's distribution centre in Auckland since July last year.
Union general secretary Robert Reid told news outlets around New Zealand earlier this week that after government law changes removing the right to paid tea and meal breaks came into force, Cotton On submitted a late claim to remove them.
The company responded to Reid’s comments by posting a statement on its Facebook page which emphasised that no agreement had yet been reached with First Union.
“The Cotton On Group is committed to having highly engaged staff and we have an effective two-way communication process in place, by way of implementation of our consultative committees which exist in each of our DCs globally, allowing each and every one of our people to have a voice.”
To ensure we can maintain the integrity of the negotiation process we are committed to continue our conversations with First Union until an agreement is made. Our people and their working conditions have and always will be our top priority.”
Cotton On has been under fire on its Facebook and Twitter accounts ever since the story broke.
Users unleashed an onslaught of tweets and comments calling for a boycott of its stores, which include Cotton On, Cotton on Body, Rubi, Factorie, Typo and Cotton On Kids.
A petition by the Labour Party asking Cotton On not to scrap its staff tea breaks also gained over 13,000 signatures.
Reid told Stuff he would have to get more clarity from Cotton On about the statement, as the union wants 15 minute paid tea breaks and 30 minute paid lunch breaks to be kept in place.
The statement refers only to paid tea breaks, while First Union says Cotton On’s claim aimed to remove both paid tea breaks and lunch breaks.