Hundreds of Farmers staff to strike on Thursday

Hundreds of staff members at Farmers stores across the country will strike on Thursday.
Hundreds of staff members at Farmers stores across the country will strike on Thursday. Photo credit: File

Hundreds of Farmers retail staff will walk off the job on Thursday to protest low pay and unfair pay reviews.

Workers at the department stores around the country will strike for between one and five hours in the afternoon, according to FIRST Union. There are also 10 pickets planned for midday in locations including Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Blenheim.

Failed negotiations led to industrial action after 93 percent of Farmers members rejected a pay offer from the company.

Currently 80 percent of Farmers workers who belong to FIRST Union are paid less than the living wage ($20.55/hour). About 40 percent of all Farmers staff are union members.

Union retail, finance and commerce secretary Tali Williams says this pay statistic is likely to reflect the company's entire workforce.

The pay scale for most Farmers workers ranges from $16.50/hour - minimum wage - to $17.50/hour, with raises only available through performance pay reviews.

More than 600 union members signed a petition asking to be paid the living wage, as well as demanding an end to the company's performance pay system.

Ms Williams claims Farmers will often give their workers low grades in order to avoid paying them more. FIRST Union estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of staff receive a C grade or lower.

"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."

Ms Williams says it's rare for Farmers' mostly female retail workforce to strike, as many are too busy caring for their families to participate in industrial action.

"The fact they are taking action should speak volumes to their employer," she says.  "They're fed up."