Cotton On workers accuse employer of virtue-signalling, go on strike over pay

Cotton On.
Cotton On. Photo credit: File

Clothing brand Cotton On has come under fire from staff who say it is refusing to pay a living wage.

After six months of negotiations with the retailer, 300 FIRST Union members are protesting in a bid to find a path towards better wages. 

"Retail workers are astonished that no settlement - or even real progress - has been achieved after six months of negotiation," said FIRST Union spokesperson Tali Williams.

Strike action will take place in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland on Friday afternoon.

"Of all the major retailers that FIRST has bargained with, Cotton On are a significant outlier in that they are proposing no pathway whatsoever to the living wage for its workers, and instead will take them a step backwards from next year," said Williams.

"This is particularly ironic given they're also the loudest and most keen to signal their virtue in the 'woke' 2019 zeitgeist without any industrial basis to back it up."

The living wage - considered by campaigners to be the level of pay an adult needs to live a dignified life - is presently $21.15 an hour. Minimum wage is $17.70. 

FIRST Union says after the protest in Wellington they will be treating staff to a Christmas party, since their employer isn't.

Cotton On's website says the company is "committed to the journey towards paying a living wage". 

Cotton On also owns stores Typo, Rubi, Supre and Body.

Cotton On has been contacted for a response.