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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions

Source: First Union

Farmers Department Store are the only major retailer in Aotearoa that FIRST Union are aware of who are choosing to pay workers only eighty percent of their ordinary wages during the recent Covid-19 lockdowns despite receiving the Government’s wage subsidy scheme, and union members are expressing their frustration today as the level-4 lockdown continues in Auckland.
“This has been the most egregious and unnecessary example of a huge and profitable company making a conscious decision to underpay workers during the most recent lockdowns,” said Ben Peterson, FIRST Union National Coordinator for Retail.
“Farmers have had access to the wage subsidy, are quickly trading again outside of level-4 restrictions, and have remained profitable during the pandemic.”
“Similar companies like Kmart, Briscoes and The Warehouse have continued to pay staff who are forced to stay home at their normal rates – Farmers are the only major brand we deal with who took this route.”
The James Pascoe Group – Farmers’ parent company – and The Farmers Trading Company Ltd received over $35m in wage subsidies during the 2020 pandemic period. As the company is not listed on the NZX, it does not declare its profit, but workers inside some of biggest Farmers stores say sales have grown since it reopened and work remains busy.
“I have about twenty dollars to live on for the next fortnight after rent and other expenses,” said one worker from a large Auckland Farmers store who wished to remain anonymous. They said that daily sales remained well above daily targets and staff were annoyed by the decision.
“I was told to use my annual leave to top up my pay, but you know, one day I’d like to take a holiday when we can again,” they said.
“This is supposed to be a family company but they’ve stopped treating us like that – they don’t do any favours for us anymore.”
“I know that many of us won’t feel like doing them any favours for them after this.”
FIRST Union understands that Farmers store managers will return to work during the level-3 lockdown to begin shipping online sales while all staff members will remain at home on reduced wages until level-2, when they will return to stores. 
“This is a miserable, greedy decision that disadvantages workers when they most need their employer’s support – they are showing their true colours,” said Mr Peterson.
“They are seizing a crisis to cut costs and their customer base and potential future employees deserve to know that.”