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Company must live up to living wage, say striking Cotton On

Workers at Cotton On’s Mangere distribution centre, who today took strike action outside the company’s Queen Street retail store, say it’s time Cotton On management cut the spin and lived up to their own promises of paying a living wage to all staff, FIRST Union said today.

“Cotton On is currently duping its customers with false claims of ethical employment practices,” said Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing.

“Workers can see through the PR façade and are tired of being treated like mannequins in one of their advertising campaigns – Cotton On isn’t living up to its own hype.”

Cotton On members have a Collective Agreement covering both retail and distribution centre workers, and FIRST Union members have been attempting to negotiate with the company since April 2019. Their most recent offer was worse than their first and doesn’t take workers – in retail or the distribution centre – to the living wage, despite the company claiming to provide “a pathway to the living wage”, a “people first focus” and a “commitment to recognise and reward their staff.”

Wages for full-time workers at Cotton On’s distribution centre range from between $17.70 and $19 per hour. The company is proposing that distribution centre workers – many of whom are Pacific and Maori – are paid less than their retail colleagues.

In New Zealand, Pākehā men are paid, on average, a full $10 more per hour than Pacific women. The average hourly wage for a Pākehā man is $33 as of June 2018, while Pacific women are paid an average of $23 an hour.

“This is a company proposing to reduce paid rest breaks and remove terms from the Collective Agreement so that the majority of workers would be on minimum wages within 6 months,” said Abbott.

“And yet it’s also a company shouting about their ethical credentials from the rooftops, despite the fact that they seem to be just another big multinational exploiting the wage gap between Pacific Island and Pākehā workers.”

Kasalina Kolotau, a Cotton On delegate and FIRST Union member, is taking part in the industrial action after being frustrated with repeated attempts at reasonable wage bargaining: “We went on strike because we’re sick of hearing that we’re worth a living wage but not being given it,” said Ms Kolotau.

“They pretend to be an ethical business, but as workers we’re struggling, and a pay increase of 50 cents isn’t going to cut it.”

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