Countdown, Farmers, Warehouse staff strike for living wage

Source: First Union Facebook.

Retail workers from Countdown, Farmers, Kmart, the Warehouse and Bunnings engaged in a mass stop-work meeting on Wednesday as part of a campaign for a living wage.

The meeting, organised by First Union, took place near Westfield’s St Lukes shopping centre in Auckland, and segued into a protest led by employees of the Farmers department store chain.

First Union members at Farmers’ department store in Auckland have been embroiled in industrial action to achieve a living wage, and balloted not to return to work after the union meeting today; instead striking for the remainder of the day.

According to First Union secretary Tali Williams, the union has been fighting for members to receive a living wage for over a year.

“It has truly snowballed to the extent where retail employers have to choose to either pay the living wage or have our members take them on,” Williams said. 

“Under these circumstances, members saw a need to come together in solidarity to a single meeting to discuss how we intend to achieve it.”

On Tuesday, First Union announced it is taking legal action against Cotton On over claims of wage theft. The union has found instances of underpayments at Cotton On before, with the business having paid $80,000 in back pay to workers in 2015, and $35,000 in 2016.

Cotton On’s New Zealand country manager Kerry Ashford said the company does not agree with the claims made by First Union.

“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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