Letter from Unite to Auckland Police

13 May

May 13, 2013

District Commander
Superintendent Michael Clement
District Headquarters
Cnr Cook and Vincent Streets, Auckland.
Fax: (09) 375 4650

Dear Mr Clement,

I would like to raise a complaint regarding police behavior during recent pickets by our union outside McDonald’s stores in Auckland.

In the past my relationships with police sent to protests or pickets I have organised has nearly always been professional. I do not favour confrontations with police or any of my members being arrested. That can only result in a waste of both our resources.

On Wednesday, May 1, we were picketing the Queen St McDonald’s store in the early evening. We did not forcibly prevent anyone from entering the store. We did try to persuade them not to, of course. Between 20 and 30 officers turned up with two paddy wagons.

The officer in charge made no attempt to speak to me. No one tried to explain what if anything we were doing that was unlawful. The police simply forced their way behind the picketers and forced them to the edge of the road. Some of my members and staff were pushed to the ground and struck. The police then maintained a protective wall of the McDonald’s store for the remainder of our time there. When I tried to speak to the officer in charge he claimed he was moving the picket for heath and safety reasons and because we were reducing the number of customers going in. He didn’t appear to be much interested when I contested these reasons are being either valid (health and safety) or lawful (reducing custom). See video link below.

On Friday, May 10, at about 8pm we began picketing the McDonald’s in Aotea Square. Again between 20 and 30 police quickly showed up. This time the same officer in charge did speak to me about what he wanted – a gap behind the picket line and around the entrance that customers could use. I said that was reasonable and tried to arrange that. That seemed to work but then he decided that he needed to put three officers in the entrance of the store. Whilst he told me he was going to do so it was unnecessary and provocative. The company already had two security guards in the doorway and having three police acting as the stores private security was not helpful.

Around 9.45 we went for a walk up to the Queen St store. This time the police formed a line across the entrance before we arrived. This forced us to form a line in front of them. In effect their line across the entrance became the picket. Again without warning they suddenly shoved us onto the edge of the road. We had such little room left we had to relocate across the road. One of the picketers walked across the road again with his placard but he was forcibly thrown across to our side of the road. Again it was provocative and unnecessary. (See video link below).

I was forced on several occasions to try to intervene to stop the situation getting out of hand.

At no time had the picketers done anything illegal that I could see on either evening. There was no need for the heavy police presence. It is not the job of the police to be the private security for a wealthy multinational.

The only times I was spoken to I got the picket to conform to the police requests. But I was spoken to only briefly twice at the picket in Aotea Square on May 10. I wasn’t spoken to on May 1, or later on the evening of May 10.

The industrial dispute with McDonald’s looks like it is going to be a reasonably long one. It would be unhelpful to a resolution of the dispute for the police to allow themselves to be used as the private security force of this multinational.

It is not the job of the police to forcibly prevent us from picketing McDonald’s stores or trying to persuade customers not to buy their product.

It does not make sense to decide before the fact that we are going to do something illegal when there is no evidence from our previous pickets that that is likely. One or two officers to monitor the situation would seem to be to be more than enough.

As a taxpayer I consider sending 20-30 police to control a picket of a similar number to be a enormous waste of resources.

Yours sincerely

Mike Treen

National Director


8 Responses to “Letter from Unite to Auckland Police”

  1. nzkiwi May 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    As a bystander that watched from the sidelines on Queen St, I find it amusing that you failed to mention that your picketing group walked illegally down the main street blocking traffic and then proceeded to sit in the middle of the road on Queen St again blocking traffic. Not only is sitting in the middle of a busy road illegal but I would have thought this was a serious health and safety issue to your crew, especially as one of your guys had a mishap with vehicles at another of your protests when they sat in a drive through. Surely safety first! Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story eh!

    • unitenews May 14, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      Your legal knowledge is a bit lacking. It is not illegal to walk or even sit on a public road. It is a time-honoured method of legitimate protest that has been used to fight for civil rights in the Southern USA, against apartheid in South Africa (and New Zealand), against the Vietnam war and many thousands of other causes around the world over many decades that have made the world a better, fairer and more peaceful place. Almost all injuries that have resulted from such protests have resulted from brutality on the part of police, army or security thugs or from vehicle drivers who think that maiming or injuring another human is less important than them being a few minutes delayed or not getting their burger straight away.

      Alternatively we could sit at our keyboards at home sniping at those trying to make a difference.

      • nzkiwi May 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

        Granted – I’m not a lawyer, but thanks for the reply which just seemed to highlight your lack of common sense and concern for the safety of your people. Here’s a tip you may find helpful – if you put your people in the middle of the road, there’s a high probability they’ll get hurt. It then would seem a little silly to blame everyone else for that other than the leader that led them there or the sheep that followed.

      • unitenews May 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

        Did you actually read the post you commented on?

        “without warning they suddenly shoved us onto the edge of the road. We had such little room left we had to relocate across the road.”

        Who was actually putting who at risk? You appear to confuse inconvenience with safety – as did the police on the night.


  1. Cop freebies at Maccas should end | unitenews - May 14, 2013

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