NZ franchise fires three staff via Facebook

A New Zealand franchise has come under scrutiny this week after three staff members were fired via Facebook, prompting some customers to call for a boycott of the store.

Taryne Cullen, 20, had been employed by a Pita Pit franchise store for a year when she went onto the company’s Facebook page to check the roster and found she had not been allocated any shifts, according to NZ website Stuff.

Cullen had been off work for a month following knee surgery, in which time new management had taken over the store in Wellington.

“When I saw my name wasn’t on there, I contacted the new owners,” Cullen said as quoted by Stuff.

She was then told over Facebook a few days later that she didn’t have a job anymore.

“I felt brushed aside, like I was no one,” she says.

Brooke Adams, 19, also told Stuff the same thing had happened to her after working at the store for a year and eight months and another woman, who did not want to be identified, also said her name wasn’t on the roster.

When the woman contacted the new owners, they informed her she no longer had a job and had to hand in her uniforms.

Franchise Advisory Centre director Jason Gehrke told SmartCompany all new franchisees should be trained in protocol.

“When a franchise is sold, the franchisor or master franchisee usually reserves the right to approve the buyer. It would be exceptional if this wasn’t the case,” he says.

“A standard part of the sale process is that the buyer must then be trained to the current standard, usually by the franchisor, or it becomes an obligation by the vendor franchisee.”

Gehrke says HR issues such as this one often arise because of “incomplete systems or incomplete execution of those systems”.

“For first time business owners, they don’t know what they don’t know. If the HR systems are incomplete or they haven’t retained what they’ve been trained, issue like this can arise,” he says.

“However, while we don’t think firing staff by Facebook is a conventional means of ending someone’s employment, there have been times when businesses have been on the other foot and staff resign via SMS or email.”

Following the incident, one customer posted on Facebook calling for a boycott.

“Boycott ALL Pita Pit shops until the franchise owners make the Featherston (sic) Street shop in Wellington apologise to the two workers fired on Facebook, gives them their jobs back, and compensates them for the crap way they have been treated,” customer Max Burke wrote.

In response to the comment the Pita Pit master franchisor commented saying it was equally as concerned.

“We’ve sent a representative to Wellington today to work through the issues highlighted. The Pita Pit culture is to treat all team members with respect and Pita Pit New Zealand are committed to ensure an outcome whereby an amicable resolution is gained for all parties,” it said.

“This is an isolated situation so we hope you’ll go easy on our other franchisees.”

The story has spread via social media, and some commenters have also complained online about poor customer service at the Wellington Featherstone store, but have generally been complimentary about the franchise.

The owner of the franchise store, Wayne Cui, told Stuff he was new to the business and admitted the situation could have been handled better.

“If they want to talk to us, the door is always open,” he says.

Gehrke says franchises should have ongoing training, but not everyone is suited to be a franchisee.

“It comes back to the specific characteristics and attributes the person presents in the recruitment process, but also the due diligence they undertake before trying to complete a franchise deal. That can include things like talking to other franchisees and former franchisees and spending a reasonable amount of time, not just an hour here and there.”

Gehrke says when a franchisee breaches regulations or makes a mistake, it’s in the franchisor’s best interests to make sure the brand isn’t associated with non-compliant behaviour.

“I can imagine there will a fair bit of coaching going on now behind the scenes,” he says.

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