Today International Socialists and local Living Wage activists joined striking First Union members in an hour’s action outside the Warehouse store in Porirua. We were asking shoppers to show their support for the in dispute workers by signing protest postcards to The Warehouse Group boss Mark Powell. In that short time over 200 signed.
Back in 2013 The Warehouse Group told us that they were going to pay the Living Wage, which is currently $19.25 an hour. The reality is rather different. Instead, the claimed living wage is what The Warehouse call a “career retailer wage” of at least $18.50 an hour. The catch is that to qualify you have to have been employed for 5 years or have clocked up 5,000 hours; a tall order given staff turnover and the number of part-time jobs in retail. Only 15% of The Warehouse workers get the boasted “career retailer wage”.
Nicky Clemens, an on-strike First Union delegate, told the International Socialist Organisation what the current dispute is about. She said that most check-out operators and other shop floor workers were paid anything from only $15.32 to $18.30 an hour. Another sore point is that The Warehouse have increased workloads so that the same amount of work is done by fewer staff.
The union’s collective agreement expired on 31 July. In bargaining a new agreement the union is claiming a 3.5% pay increase over one year. The Warehouse has offered a paltry 30c an hour for one year and 40c for a second year. This meanness further gives the lie to the Warehouse’s underserved reputation to be a living wage employer.
Let’s hope that further action, backed up by public solidarity, will put pressure on the company to take some steps towards a genuine living wage.