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Kmart Workers Leading The Way With Living Wage Offer

Retail workers across the country who are currently bargaining for new Collective Agreements with their employers will be looking to the example of Kmart, who are the first major retailer to negotiate new one-year CA for 2021-22 that includes the current living wage, FIRST Union said today.

A team of FIRST Union delegates from around New Zealand have just negotiated the new deal with Kmart. The offer is currently with FIRST Union members and will be subject to ratification over the next month.

Tali Williams, FIRST Union Secretary for Retail and Finance, said the offer was significant and set the bar for other major retail chains currently in bargaining with their workers like Bunnings, Briscoes, Cotton On and H&M.

She also noted that FIRST Union remains in bargaining with hardware chain Bunnings, which shares an owner with Kmart (Wesfarmers Ltd), but has separately avoided settling a living wage with their workers.

"Kmart have recognised that their workers are the ones who’ve kept the business afloat and profitable throughout the pandemic year, and are doing the right thing by ensuring workers are paid a living wage," said Ms Williams.

"I’m proud of our negotiating team, who made their claims clear and approached the bargaining calmly and with unity."

"Major retailers like Kmart have not experienced the drop in profitability that many predicted, and this offer shows that these companies are more than capable of paying their staff a living wage even during a year of crisis."

The new agreement would see hundreds of sales assistants moved to living wages, wage increases for longer-serving staff, a new CA allowance for union members, and a commitment to addressing the important issues of healthy staffing on a national level through a staffing review led by union delegates.

New employees at Kmart would receive at least the current living wage of $22.10 per hour after six months experience, and pay rates would also increase for Coordinators and DC Team Members as well as sales workers.

For Hayley Allen, a Kmart worker and union delegate in Papanui who helped to negotiate the new agreement, the pay increase will be meaningful to her and her colleagues.

"A living wage means a healthy work and home life balance and a lot less stress for people who work part-time like me," said Ms Allen.

"As someone who has Type-1 Diabetes, the wage increase would cover a monthly doctors’ visit, which is pretty significant."

"Kmart stepped up and set a standard - they did well during a tough year, and they know that was because of their staff."

Bargaining continues around New Zealand at other major retail brands, and FIRST Union’s Healthy Staffing, Healthy Stores campaign will continue to make safe staffing levels, insecure hours and living wages the cornerstone of these negotiations.

"A living wage is the going rate in retail - anyone paying less is behind the curve," said Ms Williams.

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