Burger King accused of exploiting Indian and other migrant workers

16 Aug

Unite Union has received many complaints from BK workers who were originally from India about the discrimination and exploitation they face.

Many staff are given work permits as students or for a year or two to allow them to seek permanent work. But to get an offer of permanent residence they need to be offered a managers job. This results in many of the migrant workers agreeing to do anything and everything demanded by the BK bosses in the hopes that they get the prized management training offer.

These workers are also too scared to join the union as they know BK management take a dim view of union membership and tell potential managers they have to leave if they want promotion.

Indian workers would often get stuck with the unpopular graveyard shifts. We had one worker who worked for several years on graveyards and even did double management shifts of 16 hours at two different stores. When he complained about his training not being completed his training as a manager was stopped and he wasn’t able to renew his visa.

The Indian workers proved so successful for BK that a majority of the company’s employees are now of Indian origin. But that has created resentments inside some stores and inside some communities where BK operates but doesn’t seem to employ people from the communities they operate in. Some managers even use their influence to hire staff from their own region in India so they can better keep them dependent and under control. This is not the fault of the workers who have been hired but the resultant abuse of their rights is being ignored by the company.

Now the union has been told that managers have been ordered not to promote any more Indian managers – even those with PR (permanent residence). Whatever reason has prompted this decision by BK it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of national origin against workers who have PR. If you suspect this has happened please contact the union.

This year’s collective agreement signed by Unite with the company includes some further improvements but if we are going to close the gap with companies like Restaurant Brands we need to have a bigger union membership at BK.

Unite Union has had to step in on several occasions to try to stop workers being forced to leave New Zealand as a consequence of actions by BK. One particularly bad example involved a manager from the Philippines.

BK went to the Philippines and worked with immigration consultants to hire Fast Food managers to work in New Zealand. The workers had to pay the consultants (who were in the room with the BK reps when the workers were interviewed in the Philippines) thousands of dollars. The worker Unite ended up helping had also borrowed money from his parents and from a bank to come to New Zealand and work, placing the entire family under financial stress. Burger King also advanced funds to pay these costs as well which were being deducted from his salary over the term of his contract in New Zealand.

The terms of his visa were only to work in a specific region with a two year contract but after his training was completed he was only offered work in the region he was trained in – violating his work visa. When Immigration became aware of this they cancelled his visa and Burger King terminated his employment. The company then deducted the remaining salary advance from his final pay, leaving him almost penniless, with no job, no rights to income support and facing deportation back to the Philippines where he would still have the burden of a massive unpaid debt created by BK lies.

The worker was extremely stressed and too ashamed to even tell his family back in the Philippines what was happening. He was relying on charity and some friends for food and shelter. Having recruited him and introduced him to an immigration consultant which resulted in him being loaded with debt, including with Burger King itself, the company then forced him to violate his visa terms.

When immigration authorities found out BK just dropped him, grabbed back the money they had lent him and left him alone, destitute and facing deportation.
Despite not being a union member at the time the worker was assisted by Unite and a settlement was reached. The worker’s visa was eventually reinstated and he was able to return to work in accordance with the original visa conditions.

The whole situation reeked of ‘indentured labour’ where workers are given jobs but loaded up with so much debt and other obligations that they are totally dependent on the employer. The result is a fearful and subservient workforce that can just be discarded when they become inconvenient or troublesome to the company. That is, of course, the main motivation for actively importing workers.

The idea that we can’t train New Zealanders to be assistant managers in burger stores and have to import them from overseas is also preposterous.

See also: Fast food giant faces union action

Employee of six years Lalit Sood claimed he and other staff faced pressure from management to leave the union and he was forced to “work like a slave”.

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