First Union members braved the chilly weather to attend simultaneous picket lines outsider Farmer’s stores in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch last week. The dozens of workers who showed up to the Queen Street on Farmer’s made their demands quite clear: a living wage, and an end to performance pay.
Performance pay, as First Union organiser Gary Hetherington explains, is an arbitrary grading system by which workers (excluding the supervisors) get a raise up to a dollar more than minimum wage depending on whether they get an A, B, or C. Yet a worker may be getting highly praised by the same management who then give them a C due to a store’s lack of sales creating an incentive to deny raises. Sixty percent of Farmers workers are on a C grade.
Unsurprisingly, First Union rejects performance pay. What the union wants, according to organiser Tali Williams, is a wage for a majority of Farmer’s workers that is based on the cost of living and is comparable to wages in the rest of the market.
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The last chant before disbanding was one we are all familiar with: When workers’ rights are under attack, stand up, fight back!