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Hundreds of Farmers workers walk off the job nationwide

Hundreds of Farmers workers walk off the job nationwide

Farmers retail stores will be empty of a few hundred staff tomorrow afternoon as workers walk off the job over low pay and unfair pay reviews.

Beauty, sales and service assistants nationwide have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action tomorrow from midday to 5 pm. Members will take a range of strike action from 1 hour to the full 5 hours. Additionally, there are ten pickets planned in Botany, St Lukes, Pukekohe, Rangiora, Blenheim, New Plymouth, Lambton Quay, The Base Hamilton, Gisborne and Hastings.Pickets are between 12:00 to 1:30 pm, media are invited to attend, please see below organiser contact list to find the exact time.

Workers have decided to move from pickets to strike action in response to failed negotiations and overwhelming community support from Auckland and Wellington pickets last month.

The crux of it:
Farmers workers typically start on or near the minimum wage ($16.50), for most roles the pay scale ends around $17.50, and any pay increases from there are only obtained through performance pay reviews. Farmers members believe the performance pay review system is unfair and have handed in a more than 600-strong petition to management asking for the Living Wage and an end to the performance pay system. The company’s latest offer was rejected by 93% of members.

FIRST Union retail, finance and commerce secretary Tali Williams says it’s unusual for Farmers workers to strike.

“Women make up a large chunk of retail workers and they don’t have time for strikes, they’re too busy looking after family members as well as holding down their jobs. The fact they are taking action should speak volumes to their employer, they’re fed-up.”

She says the magnitude and size of the action is only seen when workers have exhausted all their options and feel as though they might be listened to.

Ms Williams says the performance pay system is a disguise to hold down pay rates, and it disadvantages some of the company’s hardest workers, and their families.

“There is a budgetary incentive for store managers to grade people as C’s or D’s because it means they only need to afford the worker a low increase or even no increase at all. Evidence of that based on our estimations 60-70% of staff receive a C grading or less.”

She says one worker received multiple certificates with glowing reviews praising his customer service skills, yet his latest performance review resulted in a C-grade despite all his efforts.

“Being branded a C when you are a diligent hard worker is humiliating and worse still it hits you in the pocket. The pay review scheme is not about rewarding hard workers, that’s a myth, it’s about keeping pay rates down.”

Currently 80% of Farmers members receive less than the living wage. Ms Williams says the Farmers pay scale is substantively behind other retail employers and must be changed.

“It’s disappointing to see Farmers lagging so far behind, especially a company steeped in so much New Zealand history, in a time in New Zealand’s history when businesses are beginning to acknowledge they need to pay wages those workers can thrive on, not just barely survive on. How can Farmers tout their brand as a family’s brand when at the same time their abysmal pay is causing many families to struggle?”


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