Union says Dick Smith staff were 'not properly consulted' about concession closures

The union representing Dick Smith workers says staff at the electronic retailers' concession stores were "not properly consulted" about the impact of the concession closures.

The receivers of Dick Smith Holdings, Ferrier Hodgson shut down the 27 concessions in David Jones stores on Friday as they try to find a buyer for the failed retailer, which went into receivership earlier in the month.

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The Dick Smith-branded concessions have traded out of David Jones since late 2013, selling audio visual equipment, including blockbuster brands such as Apple.

The ACT/NSW secretary of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees' Association, Bernie Smith, said up to 181 staff could be made redundant, unless previously employed by David Jones.

Outside the Majura Park store is long time customer, Ray Arthurs, of Conder, who hopes the Dick Smith stores survive.
Outside the Majura Park store is long time customer, Ray Arthurs, of Conder, who hopes the Dick Smith stores survive. Photo: Graham Tidy

"We are very disappointed to hear about the closing of [Dick Smith] concessions in David Jones stores," he said.

"We actually filed a dispute with the Fair Work Commission for a failure to properly consult about the impact it could have with employees and how to minimise job losses, so we are working through that with Ferrier Hodgson as we speak."


He said it was not appropriate that the union was made aware of the announcement "just before the news broke" and that it was likely many staff found out through the media.

This was not the first time Dick Smith had apparently left workers in the dark.

When it first went into receivership, one store supervisor told Fairfax Media staff members were scared about their future and had to rely on media reports to find out what was happening.

Mr Smith said this was "very concerning".

"There is enough to worry about without finding out those things second-hand," he said.

The SDA is working to support up to  staff across Australia who stand to lose their jobs as a result of the concession closures.

More than 3000 of Dick Smith's other employees could face a similar fate if the company is not sold as a going concern.

If it is not sold and goes into liquidation, unpaid entitlements would become debt that staff must try to claw back. Receivers are not responsible for leave that staff accrued before they took over.

Mr Smith said union members could use government schemes in place to claim back part of that debt, as well as receive a "limited redundancy payment" if the business could not honour it. But he said superannuation was not payable by the government.

A spokesman for Dick Smith said the company employs 58 people across six stores in the ACT. There was previously a concession in David Jones Woden, however, this closed before Dick Smith went into receivership.

Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Robyn Hendry said the possible loss of local jobs was always concerning.

"However, if there had to be some change, now would be a better time than a year ago because we have seen significant growth in our retail sector and we would hope that that growth could absorb some of the skills that would be displaced from the Dick Smith circumstance," she said.

"The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently found that Canberra is the best place in Australia to be looking for a job right now. There is a lower ratio of applicants per job [than in other cities]."

Woolworths bought Dick Smith electronics in the 1980s, then sold it to private equity group Anchorage Partners for $94 million in 2012. Less than two years later, the company was listed on the ASX, with a market capitalisation of $520 million.

Anchorage Partners kept 20 per cent of its stock but sold out of Dick Smith completely the following year.

The now debt-laden retailer collapsed in early January 2016, leaving customers with thousands of dollars worth of unredeemable gift vouchers.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said the Woden David Jones store was affected by the concession closures. Woden's David Jones ended its association with Dick Smith before the company went into receivership.