Kmart’s Branches backtrack

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An Aussie department giant has apologised for effectively firing a Wakatipu High student worker for going on the school’s recent Year 10 Branches camp.

The student’s dad, who doesn’t want to be identified, says his son had worked two days a week for Kmart Queenstown for several months.

That included job training in the lead-up to the store’s opening two months ago. When his son asked for leave to go to Branches, the father says Kmart gave him an ultimatum – either don’t go, or resign or get fired.

The father’s heard several other student workers got the same message.

Both the dad and his son, who returned from the 12-day camp last weekend, visited Kmart’s Queens-town store manager on Tuesday.

Speaking to Mountain Scene yesterday, Kmart’s Melbourne-based corporate affairs manager Steve Mann says the student was the victim of an unfortunate misunderstanding.

When he’d asked for leave, the store manager hadn’t realised he was going on a school camp, “in which case the leave would have been approved”.

“It’s one of those unfortunate ones where I think the store manager didn’t understand the extent of exactly what the leave was for.”

Kmart “absolutely” apologises to the student, he says.

“We certainly didn’t mean to cause any stress.”

Mann also confirms the student’s resignation’s been “retracted”.

He’d be welcomed back, and there’d be no hard feelings on Kmart’s side. That ‘retraction’ also applied to any other students affected, he says.

Kmart, he adds, “very much takes pride in being part of the community”, and understands that schools have first call on its student workers.

In response, the dad says the incident’s “a good example where a large corporate comes to Queenstown and doesn’t totally understand that Queenstown is different”.

He does, however, welcome Kmart’s change of heart, and hopes it “truly invests in the community”.

scoop@scene.co.nz