NEW YORK — A labor union representing cosmetics and fragrance employees at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Manhattan flagship canvassed sidewalks outside the store again this week as part of a campaign to publicize ongoing negotiations about a first-time contract
The union and employees hope the contract will regulate changes in existing pay and benefits.
“Saks Inc. has been on a campaign of reducing wages and benefits…leading to a decline in morale among their associates,” stated Frank Bail, president of Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union Local 1102. A leaflet asserted that Saks’ chairman and chief executive, R. Brad Martin, was compensated generously in 2002, and now Saks management is proposing “a 20 percent decrease in salary benefits” for cosmetics and fragrance employees, according to union claims.
According to Robert Wallstrom, senior vice president and general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship, “Over the past year, we’ve had a 7 percent increase in the actual hourly wage of the selling associates.” Regarding the current talks, Wallstrom said, “We’ve discussed benefits and wages but at this point, where [things] will end up is still subject to negotiations.”
The union and Saks Fifth Avenue management have met 12 times since employees of the cosmetics and fragrance department organized in September, union officials said, but an agreement has been elusive. At issue are reductions in commission rates, hourly wages and holiday pay, as well as pension cuts. “Mostly it’s just putting down in black-and-white what these [employees] have, so nothing more can be taken away from them at will,” said Paulette Fialkoff-Amedo, Local 1102’s director of field service.
Sources indicated the flagship’s beauty department is the chain’s highest-grossing one with sales upwards of $66 million.