Tens of thousands of minimum wage workers are potentially collectively owed millions of dollars in unpaid wages, with 16 of New Zealand's largest retailers now accused of forcing their employees to work without pay.
The 16 - Smiths City, Spotlight, Briscoes, Hannahs, Bunnings Warehouse, Rebel Sport, The Warehouse, Countdown, Pak n Save, Cotton On, Noel Leeming, Harvey Norman, Farmers, Kmart, Whitcoulls and Warehouse Stationery - have been accused of either forcing staff to attend a daily morning meeting unpaid, or cash up stores unpaid, or both.
The Labour Inspectorate, unions, and media have been inundated with complaints from hundreds of employees across dozens of businesses after revelations on Friday that Smiths City had forced employees to attend a morning meeting unpaid for at least 15 years.
"The line has been drawn in the sand now. Employers can't hide from the fact that they must pay their workers for all hours worked and not to try and make people come in to work for free, it's now been established that's clearly illegal, and we will pursue those cases," First Union retail spokesperson Tali Williams said.
The government will also be pursuing complaints.
"We'll try and group them into industries or employers and we'll be going out once we have that information to those industries and employers to try and get them to rectify the issue," Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden said.
"At the end of that, if we've still got employers who are not compliant, we will be visiting them," Mr Lumsden said.
All of the 16 businesses accused of forcing employees to work without pay say that goes against their company policy.
A former Bunnings Warehouse employee, who spoke to Checkpoint on the condition of anonymity, said she was effectively fired for speaking out against unpaid morning meetings.
"I was told if I didn't show up for morning meetings my contract would be terminated. [My assistant manager] said coming in early showed you were committed, and that commitment was indicative of your attitude, and also would affect how many shifts you got," the former employee said.
"It was a threat, and the threat got carried through. I started not getting as many offers of shifts, and then I got no offers, and then I resigned," she said.
The woman moved to a different Bunnings Warehouse store, where she was paid for morning meetings, but not for her evening cash up.
"The store would officially close at 6pm, but often there'd be customers in the store and I couldn't cash up until all the customers had left. I wouldn't finish until 6.30pm, sometimes later, and I wasn't paid for that.
"I started changing my timesheet, noting it, and saying I got out at 6.30pm because of late cash up, but that wasn't reflected on my payslip," she said.
Bunnings Warehouse declined to be interviewed but issued a statement saying it expected all staff to be paid for all meetings and cash up.
"Bunnings will not tolerate any non-payment of our team's entitlements and will investigate any claims that arise," Bunnings Warehouse human resources director, Jacqui Coombes, said in the statement.
Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has committed to doubling the number of labour inspectors in New Zealand to 110.
"And the other thing I'd say to the workers in this situation, is this is exactly what unions are for. I don't think this situation would've been allowed to carry on for as long as it has if more of the workforce had been unionised," he said.
"So it's a good example why being a member of a union can be very, very helpful to a lot of workers."
First Union said it would continue to name and shame more retailers in the coming days.