An anti-poverty group is slamming the expansion of a government-funded employment scheme by The Warehouse.
The Red Shirts for the Community employment scheme provides unpaid work for unskilled people aged 16 to 24.
An expansion of the scheme was announced by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) earlier this week.
Vanessa Cole from Auckland Action Against Poverty is accusing the programme and MSD of subsidising unpaid labour.
She says it's hypocritical for The Warehouse, which prides itself on being a living-wage employer, to employ unpaid youth workers.
"These workers are not getting paid living wage or at all and it's treating unemployed youth like they don't have value."
The Warehouse. Photo/ Supplied.
Cole says The Warehouse and MSD are taking advantage of desperate youth.
"The government shouldn't be subsiding private companies by giving them a pool of unemployed labour," she says. "That's wrong. People need to have secure hours to ensure that they're going to be able to put food on the table for their families."
Meanwhile, general manager of community relations for The Warehouse Group, Shari French, says they're working with MSD to make the programme more widely available.
"We're working to adapt the model to be able to offer it as a package for other organisations to consider," she says.
French says they're working on implementing that over the next six months.
So far, 250 young people have completed the scheme's three-week course, with 50 of them going on to be employed by The Warehouse.
French says there aren't enough vacancies in the company to employ everyone who completes the programme.
"We have high retention in our stores. We've got a great culture so people wanna stay with us," she says.