Fewer than 30 civilian New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) employees turned out for the start of rolling strike action after what the Public Services Association (PSA) calls an "unacceptable and intimidatory letter" was sent to staff on Wednesday.
Palmerston North MP and Labour's Defence Spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway said the letter by the NZDF is "appalling," while the NZDF say that the letter will not list employees.
One-hundred-and-fifty Linton and Ohakea-based workers were expected to strike for two hours in Palmerston North on Thursday over the NZDF's refusal to enter pay negotiations.
"For many, unfortunately they did feel conflicted because their employer was basically using standover tactics", said PSA Organiser Nick Kelly.
The letter, written by Defence Lead Advocate, Karamea Dorset, said:
"Only employees who perform their regular duties are noted as not participating in the strike on the list that will be sent to the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)."
Defence spokesperson Tony Vale told Newshub the list being sent to MBIE is a list of strikes, dates, and actions being taken such as not answering calls or emails - not a list of employees.
When Newshub said the letter suggested it was staff being named, Mr Vale said "I've just had clarification".
However Palmerston North MP and Labour's Defence spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway calls it "an extremely misleading statement designed to intimidate staff"
The letter also suggested Defence expected that all workers should work during the notified strike period.
"For a government agency to act in such an intimidating fashion is appalling," said Mr Lees-Galloway.
One worker told Newshub she hasn't had a pay rise for five years.
"Roles are a good $10,000 behind equivalent roles in other organisations", said Mr Kelly.
Civilian staff include those working in communications, engineering, IT, security and catering.
In a statement the NZDF told Newshub:
"There are 628 PSA members in the NZDF working in a broad range of jobs. The NZDF has 2860 civilian employees, in a total workforce of 14,500.
"The NZDF is making alternative arrangements to ensure the safety of the public and the safety and security of NZDF personnel, equipment and property.
In response to whether it will enter pay negotiations it said "talks are continuing".
Further strikes are planned in Wellington on Friday and in Kauri Point and Devonport next week.