Cotton On workers strike over “wage theft”

First Union has said it will take legal action against Cotton On in the next few weeks over claims of wage theft.

The union alleges the fashion retailer has been altering time sheets to fit its budget, rather than paying staff wages based on the hours worked, and has failed to pay staff for overtime and holidays worked.

According to First Union spokesperson Jared Abbott, the union was in the process of finalising an audit of Cotton On, and said while management had acknowledged the underpayments they had failed to explain them.

“What we are seeing here is the same company repeatedly being caught out stealing from it’s low paid workforce,” Abbott said. 

As a result of these underpayments, workers at Cotton On’s New Zealand distribution centre have unanimously voted to strike in support of a living wage, and to protest the company’s history of underpayments – having paid $80,000 in backpay to workers in 2015, and $35,000 in 2016.

According to the NZHerald, Cotton On managers walked out on a bargaining meeting last week, and told First Union they “weren’t in the mood” to deal with their staff underpayments. 

Cotton On’s New Zealand country manager Kerry Ashford denied these claims in a statement, saying that the business does not agree with what First Union has put forward.

“As a people first business, the Cotton On Group entered into negotiations with First Union in good faith and have put forward an offer that benefits our team,” Ashford said.

“We are disappointed we have not reached an agreement with the Union, however we’re committed to the mediation process.”


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