Lingerie Megastore Strips Staff Numbers And Is Accused Of 'Abusing Young Workers'
Australia's first full-range Victoria's Secret store is being accused of not properly paying its retail staff and telling some they 'looked dead' if they weren't wearing enough makeup.
Almost 100 Victoria's Secret staff members have been sacked just months after the company opened its doors in the upmarket Chadstone shopping centre in Melbourne.
10 daily has been told 60 casual and 30 full-time staff at the lingerie juggernaut's flagship store received termination letters from the label’s parent company, Valiram Group.
The mass sackings occurred in two waves in mid-January and last week.
"I had just gotten promoted to full time from casual two weeks ago because of my performance and then they fired me on Tuesday," Brittany Mcilroy told 10 daily.
The 21-year-old, who was a full-time lingerie sales assistant, says since she joined the brand in October, she was made to work seven hours without a break because the shop was too busy.
"One week in December I worked around 80 or so hours and then when I got let go they told me they are only keeping dedicated staff. How much more dedicated do I have to be, I worked so much overtime and breaks were pushed and pushed back" she said.
Victoria’s Secret opened at Chadstone in November 2018 to much fanfare, with more than 1000 eager shoppers queuing to be among the first inside the lingerie retailer’s first Australian flagship location.
The 1,260m-square store at Chadstone is similar in design and layout to the retailer’s iconic location on New York’s 5th Ave.
"At first I was extremely excited to be working there because I've loved the brand my whole life and I was so happy to be part of their new flagship store in Australia," 21-year-old Chloe Bosch said.
There are 21 Victoria’s Secret stores around Australia, eight of which are in airport terminals, but they only carry a limited range of beauty, fragrance and accessories.
Things quickly soured for Bosch who quit this week after dozens of her friends were fired.
"We need to stand together against these terrible companies who are abusing young workers in all of these ways," Bosch said.
Bosch said it got to the point where staff would show up expecting a nine-hour shift, and just be told to go home without notice.
"Almost every pay slip was wrong, a huge majority of the staff either didn't get paid for ages, got paid the wrong amount or they are still owed money," she said.
She says she made several written complaints about her pay. 10 daily has seen three such complaints.
Bella Cannata, 19, said on Tuesday she was called to the office and let go immediately.
"No warnings at all, no written warnings but all of a 'sudden see you later'. I have bills and board and I can't afford that now," the full-time register assistant said.
Mcilroy says she was mistakenly only paid $177 for two weeks of pay in the most recent pay cycle.
"I live out of home and pay rent, I am really stressed out about losing my job and also the pay mix up added more pressure," she said.
She says she was also routinely criticised about her appearance, and her colleague Mcilroy told 10 daily she witnessed these comments.
Even when I wore makeup they said wear a bright lip stick because you look dead, Cannata said.
Casual sales assistant Raquelle Ferre, 19, was also let go in January. She says repeated comments about her appearance have taken its toll.
"Basically management was really rude, like the things they told us. They would tell me I looked dead," she said.
Ferre says she was told she wouldn't make a lot of sales if she didn't wear enough makeup.
"It made me feel really insecure and think 'oh am I just ugly' and I would come home and just cry," Ferre said.
Ferre says she also went four weeks without pay in her first month of work, last October.
"I thought Victoria's Secret was about empowering women but this experience just really hurt and brought me down," she said.
Valiram, the Malaysia-based franchisee that operates Victoria’s Secret in Australia told 10 daily that their Australian business is growing, and they are on track to open further concept stores in Australia and New Zealand based on the success of Chadstone.
Over the Christmas period our staff numbers peaked and as we transitioned into normal trading hours in the new year we reduced our staffing to reflect the foot traffic into the shopping centre, a spokesperson said in a statement.
Russell Zimmerman, from the Australian Retailers Association, said Fair Work is specific about staff breaks and the number of hours an employee can work in a week and "retailers must abide at all times by the rules and regulations that are clearly set."
He also encouraged retail employees to speak to managers to give them a chance to resolve an issue, and if it's still not corrected, to contact the Fair Work Commission or the Fair Work Ombudsman.
"We will not make comment on the claims made by previous employees without supporting evidence," Valiram's said in a statement.
At least two complaints by former Victoria's Secret staff have been lodged with the Fair Work Commission.
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