Today, hundreds of Farmers retail staff will leave the shop floor over low wages and a performance pay system that keeps wages down.
The stores taking part in strike action are Auckland, East, West and North Shore stores, Wellington stores, Riccarton, Hamilton stores and Palmerston North stores.
Staff from several stores will be gathering at different locations to take part in pickets around midday that may provide photo opportunities. Please contact me to find out if there is a picket at a location near you.
Many stores are also continuing the leafletting/sticker wearing/ t shirt wearing actions including Whakatane, Christchurch stores, and Nelson and Blenheim stores.
The actions began last week with workers defying the company uniform policy by wearing stickers that read ‘F’ for Farmers, some workers have gone as far as to walk off the job. Actions continue this week with work-to-rule action (a form of partial strike action) and wearing of an ‘F’ for Farmers t-shirts while working. In addition, picket lines are planned at stores up and down the country. The two key reasons for the actions are the company’s unfair performance pay system and low wages.
FIRST Union Organiser, Kirstin Miller, says staff have struggled under the performance pay system for years.
“We have brought this up with Farmers so many times before and they refuse to acknowledge or even listen to workers’ concerns. It’s the only major retail company in New Zealand that links performance to pay like this and staff feel it’s just a sneaky way to keep their wages down. We have award-winning members who are kept on a C-grade. This is so detrimental to their self-worth when they are putting their best foot forward every day and going into work with a smile on their face because they love their job and the people they work with. If Farmers is going to grade them down, workers will do the same back. Workers are giving Farmers an ‘F’.”
Ms Miller says in reality the Farmers brand doesn’t ring true to its reputation.
“The perception that it’s a family brand that looks after its workers, that it’s an upmarket brand just isn’t true. The wages at Farmers are not liveable and fall well behind other retail brands, including some supermarkets. It’s also a New Zealand company so it’s really disappointing to see it fall behind the Australian brands here.”
Liz, who’s been with Farmers for 12 years says, “People are struggling on $18 per hour, with kids, even if they’ve been with the company nearly a decade. They need to value their workers; we’re just a number and that’s not good. This is about treating people fairly; we are underpaid and short staffed, so it’s about standing up for ourselves. The Living Wage would give my colleagues the work/life balance they need because they can’t afford to do anything else but work. They don’t listen to our concerns or value our input, that’s why I’m giving Farmers an ‘F’.”
Anne, who’s been working at Farmers for the past 23 years says, “I didn’t receive a pay rise until I joined the union. So many of my colleagues are not on a living wage. Money’s tight out there you know. They used to spend a lot of time training us and lifting our rates based on training modules completed, it was really encouraging but they don’t do that anymore which is really sad. We’re now cut to the bone, they [Farmers] think they are doing okay with pay rates but anything under the Living Wage is not okay. I do like my job, one of the reasons why I stay is because of the people, and I like helping people.”