Woolworths hiring 20,000 workers to cope with coronavirus buying demand

Supermarket giant Woolworths is creating 20,000 new jobs to meet unprecedented demand but there's a growing list of companies shutting their doors and standing down staff.

People are seen waiting outside a Woolworths supermarket in Melbourne

People are seen waiting outside a Woolworths supermarket in Melbourne Source: AAP

Woolworths is creating 20,000 new jobs to meet a surge in demand but the list of companies shutting stores and standing down staff continues to grow.

Woolworths on Friday said it has placed around 3,000 of its stood-down ALH Group team members in new roles across its BWS, Dan Murphy's and Woolworths Supermarkets and is preparing to offer up to 5,000 short-term roles to Qantas employees taking leave without pay.

The hiring comes as Australians continue panic buying at supermarkets, leaving some aisles empty.

Woolworths on Tuesday stood down 8,000 workers following the government ban on pubs, clubs and hotels and postponed the separation and spin-off of its Endeavour division until 2021.

Coles supermarkets earlier this month offered 5,000 jobs to help better capitalise on the rampant buying of food and household goods.

Just before 11am AEST, Woolworths shares were trading 2.2 per cent higher to $37.52, while Coles shares were 0.5 per cent lower at $16.46.

Meanwhile, homewares trader Adairs will join those retailers temporarily closing stores in Australia for the safety of staff and customers.

It will temporarily shut stores for four to six weeks after trade on Sunday.

Adairs has already shut its stores in New Zealand, and will continue trading online in both countries.

Clothing chain Kathmandu will take the same action today.

Kathmandu has about 170 stores in Australia and NZ, and more than 100 Rip Curl stores.

It is understood about 2,000 Australian store and head office staff, with the exception of a skeleton crew, will be stood down without pay for four weeks.

Kathmandu had already closed stores in regions including Brazil, Europe, New Zealand and North America.

The board has suspended dividend payments to shareholders.

The Kathmandu workers join a growing number of Australians stood down from their jobs without pay.

A generic view of the Kathmandu signage and  store in Adelaide.
A generic view of the Kathmandu signage and store in Adelaide. Source: AAP

On Thursday, Premier Investments - which owns the Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Portmans and Just Jeans stores - stood down 9,000 workers around the world.

Jewellery chain Lovisa and Athlete's Foot owner Accent Group on the same day temporarily closed 400 stores and 500 stores respectively.

Accent, which also owns the Platypus and Hype shoe chains, will stand down a reported 5,000 staff.

Mosaic Brands - the owner of Noni B, Rivers and Katies - said it will stand down 6,800 employees across 1,300 stores while Michael Hill Jewellers earlier this week announced it would shut 300 stores, including 165 in Australia.

The travel industry has suspended larger numbers of workers.

Qantas has stood down 20,000 of its 30,000 workers, and Virgin Australia has done the same for 8,000 workers.

Flight Centre says an initial 6,000 of its global sales and support staff globally will either be stood down or made redundant.

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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3 min read
Published 27 March 2020 at 12:26pm