Workers in Auckland’s Botany, Manukau and Pukekohe Farmers retail stores are fed up with their pay conditions and are walking off the job today, with one worker saying she is “embarrassed” about how little she is paid.

Staff member at an Auckland store, Lynda, told First Union she had been an employee for 23 years but was still not on the Living Wage.

“It’s a bit embarrassing, I don’t disclose, even to my family, what I get,” she says. “The Living Wage would enable me to save somewhat towards retirement. On my own, on these wages, I cannot save and I don’t want my husband to have to compensate for Farmer’s low pay.”

Retail staff are taking strike action over the company’s refusal to pay the living wage and faulty performance pay system that keeps wages down.

Staff at the Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, North Shore and Timaru stores will be taking partial strike actions of a uniform strike with staff wearing an “F for Farmers: Farmers Workers Deserve a Living Wage” sticker on their shirt.

The F grade design is in reference to the company’s unfair performance pay system and unlivable wages. Yesterday staff throughout the country took similar partial strike actions.

Lynda says some of her co-workers were struggling to pay rent and bills, living pay cheque to pay cheque.

“I really feel for those who’re on even less than myself,” she says. “They use things like Oxipay from work instead of buying from anywhere else because there’s no other way to buy things like Christmas presents for their children.”

She also had colleagues who had to use loans for simple car repair work because they could not afford to save enough money while also raising a family.

“We enjoy working at Farmers, it’s a bit like a family, I do enjoy my work and the customers I meet along the way, that’s why I’ve stayed there so long,” she says of why she’s lasted 23 years at the company.

First Union’s Tali Williams says Farmers retail workers have long been graded under an unfair performance pay system and have decided to grade their own employer in return.

“Farmers workers give their employer an F. An F for the lowest wages in the industry, an F for an unfair performance pay system, an F for not listening to the concerns of their staff.

“Farmers needs to stay true to its family brand and ensure its workers are on living wages that keep them and their families happy and healthy, not struggling to get by,” she says.

Staff will continue taking actions over the next two weeks.

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