Workers face uncertain future as Woolworths dumps Masters

Masters hardware.About 10,000 workers are facing an uncertain future after the announcement that Woolworths plans to sell or closeall Masters home improvement stores, including the warehouse at Rutherford.

On Monday Woolworths Limited announced it intends to “exit its home improvement businesses, Masters Home Improvement and Home Timber & Hardware, through a prospective sale or wind-up process”.

The announcement follows reports that the business has lost more than $600 million since opening four years ago.

“Our recent review of operating performance indicates it will take many years for Masters to become profitable,” Woolworths chairman Gordon Cairns said.

“We have determined we cannot continue to sustain ongoing losses from this business.”

The decision affects 10,000 workers across the country.

The union for retail workers, SDA, was in discussions with Woolworths on Monday.

SDA national secretary, Gerard Dwyer said the union’s immediate focus was on supporting the at-risk workers.

“There are thousands of Masters workers waking up to news of an uncertain future,” he said.

“The SDA will be working with the major retailer to minimise the impact on individuals and doing everything we can to support workers during this period.

“The company has assured us that its preferred outcome is to sell the business as a going concern and if this is achieved the SDA will promptly engage the new owners on behalf of our members.

“This is obviously a devastating time for workers and their families, and the SDA will be doing everything we can to support them during this uncertain period.”

Woolworthsreleased a statement which said the top priority was to do the right thing by employees, suppliers, customers and shareholders.

“We will act quickly and openly to minimise the impact of this decision,” a statement read.

“If Woolworths is unable to sell all of the business and has to close any of the operations, it will seek to provide alternate employment opportunities within the Woolworths Group to all current Home Improvement employees.

“Woolworths will honour all gift certificates, product warranties, returns, and lay-bys and the completion of any contracted home improvement projects such as kitchens, bathrooms and floor coverings. Any gift cards can already be used at other Woolworths Group stores.”

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