Auckland retail staff working for Swedish fashion retailer H&M are refusing to serve customers and hang or fold disregarded clothes as part of ongoing partial strikes.
About 95 H&M staff working for the international retail chain have been participating in a three-day partial strike action following the retailer's resistance to paying its New Zealand staff the Living Wage of $21.15.
H&M sales staff in this country currently earn $18.70 an hour.
H&M stores in Auckland are reportedly in dire conditions as workers refuse to hang, fold and return clothes to the sales floor from fitting rooms and other basic tasks such as doing up the zips and buttons of garments.
One shopper reportedly said: "This is worse than a Smith & Caughey sale," in response to the mess at one Auckland H&M store.
First Union, which represents unionised H&M staff, said staff were wearing black clothing "to mark how depressed they feel about their pay rates".
Sarah Thompson, First Union retail, finance and commerce organiser, said many H&M workers struggled to make ends meet on their current pay rates.
"We've been in bargaining with H&M and that bargaining has not been going well, to say the least - it's going very poorly," Thompson told the Herald.
"We've said to H&M 'will you work with us to find a pathway to offer the Living Wage' and they said no and as a result these workers are getting out there to fight for it."
Thompson said First Union wanted H&M to follow Kmart and Bunnings lead by committing to pay their staff in this country the Living Wage.
H&M would also not commit to increase any wages for staff this year, but had proposed an increase from April 1 next year, Thompson said.
"The rates they are proposing are well below other retail sites."
First Union will go into mediation with H&M on Thursday.
In a statement, H&M said it "took pride in being a fair and equal employer".
"We continue to maintain an amicable, collaborative working relationship with First Union and remain committed to ensuring we reach an agreement that first and foremost supports the needs and well-being of our employees."
JessiMae Peato, a sales advisor at the H&M Botany store, said she was taking part in the strike as she wanted to rent a home for her and her two children instead of being cooped up in a crowded house with her family.
"I want to work in fashion, but I'd earn more at the Kmart across the street or the Bunnings down the road. I don't want to have to choose between a career and a means of survival".
First Union says the three-day partial strike action is the first of its plans for H&M staff around the country to take further industrial action.
"All of the workers have voted against the offer but just as part of escalation we're slowly starting off in Auckland, we don't want to hit them with the big guns if we don't need to.
"We're going into mediation with H&M on Thursday and we hope [partial strike action] is going to put the pressure on them before then, however, they have told us no protest or strike action is going to have any impact on the bargaining offer."
H&M has three stores in Auckland at Sylvia Park, Botany and Commercial Bay. It has others in Christchurch, Wellington and Tauranga.