The “crimes” of Unite

17 Jul

The following is a recent exchange of emails between Unite and McDonald’s. McDonald’s “Director of HR and Talent” was making a “formal complaint” about alleged breaches of union protocols that exist between the union and the company. Unite national Director Mike Treen responds to the complaint.


I wish to bring to your attention a list of Union Protocols that are currently being breached by Unite. Please investigate these breaches and provide us with a written response and your undertaking that the Union Protocols will be adhered to going forward and that no further breaches will occur.

The specific breaches of the Union Protocols between McDonald’s and Unite are as follows:

1. Joining and Resigning from the Union

Employees have a right to join a union, not join a union or to resign from a union. We respect the employees’ right to choose and also the union’s right to have recruitment discussions.

We have received a number of written complaints from our employees saying that they feel pressured by the delegate to join the union. For instance:

‘I felt like they pressured me into joining, after talking to my partner and some other people this is definitely not what I want and would like to get out of the union as from today’

We also have examples of abusive email responses from Alex Muir to employees who have chosen to resign from the union. For example:

‘Please negotiate your own contract and don’t freeload off the hard work and long hours that our staff and members put in to try and get our members a better deal for McDonald’s… As far as I’m concerned you are letting your workmates and the rest of us down’.

This response is unprofessional and not appropriate. You need to remind your delegates of the employee’s fundamental right to join, not join or to resign from a union.

2. Workplace Access

The protocols are clear in terms of duration of recruitment visits and also the behaviour of delegates during union visits.

With respect to the duration of recruitment visits, the guidelines are that the duration of the visit is for approximately 5 minutes. We have reports that delegates are extending these meetings to up to 30 minutes. Where a longer discussion is needed, the delegate should approach the supervisor on shift. If the longer visit cannot be accommodated at that time (say because the restaurant is busy) then it should be completed at an alternative time when the restaurant is quieter.

Please remind your delegates of 5 minute length recruitment visits and to bear in mind the timing of their visit given the peak periods of the restaurant.

An example of poor behaviour by one of your delegates is Gary Cranston when he recently visited the Kaikohe restaurant, owned by our franchisee, Lynley Reid on a union visit. Lynley’s Restaurant Manager was with her family at the time and Gary interrupted her discussions with her family and proceeded to talk to them in an aggressive and intimidating manner. Despite another family member asking him to leave, he ignored this and continued to carry on. Then also took a photo of the Restaurant Manager’s 12 year old daughter, without permission. This is clearly inappropriate and our understanding is that the Restaurant Manager and her family has had discussions with the Kaikohe police regarding this.

Gary’s behaviour is a clear breach of the protocols and you need to address his behaviour directly with him.

3. Strike and Protest Action

We respect the union’s right to strike and protest, and would ask that union delegates conduct themselves appropriately when doing so. Parties are to act reasonably and in good faith toward one another.

We have been given the following instances of poor behaviour/conduct:

  • a written complaint from a customer that protesters called him a F…… C…;
  • a member’s placard was used to hit the roof of a customer’s car;
  • a member using a megaphone to yell into a customer’s car window with a family inside that car;
  • members trying to continue their protests inside the restaurant;
  • A delegate threatening a supervisor that she would come around to his home.

These types of behaviour/conduct are completely unacceptable and fall outside the boundaries of reasonableness and good faith.

Action Required

Given both the serious nature and the number of breaches of Union Protocol, I trust you will make this a priority and look into this for us.

I look forward to receiving your response and your undertaking that the protocols will be adhered to going forward and that no further breaches will occur.


Lauren Voyce MHRINZ | My McJob: Director of HR and Talent | McDonald’s Restaurants (NZ) Ltd. email:lauren.voyce | tel/fax: (09) 539 4376 | mobile: 027 506 9316


Hi Lauren,

Firstly I consider it somewhat ironic that you should be using an (unsigned) union protocol as a basis for your complaint when your lawyers have written to claim that the collective agreement is not legally valid because it also is unsigned.

Both agreements were negotiated in good faith as a package and I think it is best for both sides to continue to recognise and apply them accordingly. I will respond in that spirit.

1. Joining and resigning from the union

Your email has one anonymous complaint that “I felt like I was pressured to join a union.” It seems he only realised this “after talking to my partner and some other people.”

I cannot look into this “complaint” as it is anonymous and has such little substance that it barely registers as a “complaint.” In what way was he pressured? Who pressured him/her? When did it occur?

I would like to also point out that we have taken complaints to your HR team regularly that some of your franchisees routinely pressure people to leave the union. You always refuse to investigate our complaints unless we produce written statements. In our case we have usually been unable to do so because the workers are intimidated from putting anything in writing.

The company refuses to investigate even cases when the objective evidence is clear – ie that in some franchise stores the big majority of new recruits to the union resign within weeks. This is a pattern that doesn’t occur at any McCopco store nor the majority of franchisees. That fact alone would seem to me to justify an investigation by your HR team. We have also had multiple letters written in the same style faxed by managers from stores. Now after we complained the company has stopped that practice but it didn’t lead to further investigation.

In those circumstances it seems a bit rich for you to expect us to take one anonymous “complaint” of this nature seriously.

The email from Alex is something that won’t be happening again. Alex is our membership manager and its not his role to communicate with members. In this case however the email he received was actually quite offensive in character so I guess he felt justified.

I should point out that Unite has probably the simplest and easiest regime of any union for anyone to resign. Our membership form says that it must be two-weeks in writing but we actually allow members to resign by phone, text, or email. We also usually process those resignations the week they occur.

I will however be reminding all Unite employees of the “fundamental right to join, not join or to resign from a union.” I hope you do likewise for your managers and franchisees.

2. Workplace Access

We agree the protocols are clear in terms of duration of recruitment visits and also the behaviour of delegates during union visits. Again this works both ways.

I have complained on several occasions that two franchise owners in Christchurch were stalking the organisers. They would use the notification they receive to make sure that they were present on almost every visit. They would then try to engage the organiser in lengthy “discussion” before she had a chance to talk to the workers. They would then wait in the store and monitor the visits. This is all incredibly intimidating of the staff. This week one of them has been going to the stores before the visit to ask staff’s attitude to the union and if they thought she was doing a good job.

These franchisees have also been strictly enforcing the 5 minute “guideline” as an absolute rule without variation. I wrote to you last week and pointed out that the protocol says it is guideline and that if the discussion “significantly” exceeds the guideline then permission from the manager should be sought.

I will remind our staff to re-read the guideline. I would like you to actually provide your managers with a copy of it as they usually claim not to have actually read it when our organisers speak to them about it.

Again there is actually only one specific case of “poor behaviour” listed which I will take up.

Gary visited the Kaikohe store when the manager was having lunch with her family. It seems this manager uses family members in the store all the time and pays them in vouchers or something similar – so I guess they need to use them up. Among the members of the family she uses to work in the store are her son who other staff members say was previously sacked for theft and sexual harassment.

By using “unpaid” family members the manager also avoids giving extra hours to existing staff. Gary also witnessed the manager using her 12-year-old daughter to hold the board outside the store. He did take a picture of the daughter when she was standing outside holding aboard in a public area. The abusive conduct in my view is making your daughter stand outside a McDonald’s holding a board – not Gary taking a picture of it. Taking a picture in a public area is lawful and I assume that is why the police will be taking no action on the issue.

Gary did approach the manager in the store to ask about the use of family members in the store. He rejects the accusation that he did so in a “aggressive” manner.

3. Strike and protest action.

We accept that on strikes and pickets the temperature sometimes rises.

It is also true that there are many supporters from the public who join in and support the pickets and over whom we have no direct control.

Again with your specific instances we are not given any information that would allow us to check. We accept that some of them may have occurred. We do not approve of threats and foul language and will seek to prevent instances in the future. On a few very rare occasions cars have driven into the picket line without stopping – which may raise the temperature. However our goal is to convince customers to support the campaign for better wages and conditions so we seek to reason with the customers. In those circumstances the use of a megaphone to talk to people (including inside cars) is pretty standard and 80% of the time gets a friendly response from those inside the cars who give us the thumbs up and turn away.

The reference to a “delegate” threatening a supervisor without any detail is simply unhelpful. If it occurred we would like to opportunity to speak to them to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It is not behaviour we sanction.

Written agreements need to be enforced. The collective agreement provisions not to hire new staff before offering them to existing staff needs to be enforced. The payment of compensation to those who have missed legally sanctioned meal breaks needs to be enforced. Ensuring breaks are mid shift unless by agreement needs to be enforced.

I estimate the company has broken the law 80,000 times since the rest and meal breaks law came into effect in April 2009. The two stores we have figures for reveal that meal breaks were not given to staff who worked more than 4 hours hours by an average of 100 times a month. If that is repeated (as I am sure it will be when you fulfill your legal obligation to provide wage and time records) across all 161 stores for the 51 months since the law was changed we have evidence of a company that is a serial offender.

Your complaints over access pale into insignificance besides that record.

However I will use the concerns you have expressed to have a discussion with our organisers to ensure we act in the spirit of our agreements. I hope you do likewise.


Mike Treen
National Director
Unite Union
09 8452132 ext 20
029 5254744


2 Responses to “The “crimes” of Unite”

  1. Tracy July 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    Great work – keep up the good fight.

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