Staff are afraid of redundancies following TAB NZ’s new proposal to restructure several Wellington branches

Racing and sports betting agency TAB NZ informed Wellington staff of a new restructure plan this week, after a massive restructure by the organisation laid off more than 200 employees last year.

A worker who wanted to be anonymous told Newsroom staff across the six Wellington stores affected by the restructure proposal were left feeling “terribly upset” after they were told in a Zoom call that half of the roles across six stores could be disestablished. 

“Staff fear for their livelihood, especially at this time, and so close to Christmas,” the worker said.

“Staff were asked if they had any questions on this announcement. This is absolutely disgusting and unprofessional. How can a person respond and prepare questions when they don’t even know what the announcement was going to be?” the staff member said.

The worker said staff were under the impression the stores were being bought by another organisation, but a TAB NZ spokesman said the company was proposing to change the operational model for six Wellington branches to being run in a similar way to a franchise model. 

The spokesman said about 30 workers would be affected by the proposed changes in Wellington and “almost all” staff would be re-employed following the transition.

“The expectation, based on previous operating model changes in other locations, is that almost all staff employed by the TAB would be offered new roles on similar terms and conditions and all six stores will remain open,” he said.

“At this stage, this is a proposal subject to staff consultation, with any changes as a result of this proposal not taking place until March 2022.”

The spokesman said this transition in operating models happened frequently within the company, with three other branch conversions taking place in 2021. He said he did not know if all staff were replaced in those restructures.

New Zealanders spent a record $11.7 million on bets for this year’s Melbourne Cup, TAB says. Photo: Getty Images

Last year the company laid off 220 workers, about 30 percent of its then workforce, citing Covid-19’s impact.

The Racing Industry Transition Agency (formerly the Racing Board) transitioned to TAB NZ last year in line with the new Racing Industry Act 2020.

Through the Act, TAB NZ was established as the sole betting provider for racing and sports in New Zealand with a focus on maximising profits for the national racing industry while having a strong regard for gambling harm minimisation.

This year, for the year ending July 31, 2021, the company posted a $174.2 million normalised profit, which was $42.5m above budget.

The recent Melbourne Cup saw punters spend a record $11.7m on bets.

TAB NZ said there was a noticeable shift in online betting due to the Covid-19 restrictions across New Zealand, with more than 12,000 new accounts on the Melbourne Cup day, up 76 percent on last year, and active customers on the day through digital channels topped 108,000.

This was the first time more than 100,000 customers have been active on Melbourne Cup Day or any day in the TAB’s history and was up 20 percent on last year’s figures.

Ministry of Health data shows the pandemic accelerated the growth of online gambling, with spending increasing from about $4.1 million a week at the start of 2020 to $6.25m a week during the lockdown.

Compared with the same period in the previous year, spending on online gambling during lockdown was up 51 percent.

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