Archive | August, 2013

Unite makes gains on insecure hours in McDonald’s contract

30 Aug

By Mike Treen

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

Unite Union is in the process of ratifying a new collective agreement with McDonald’s that is a significant step forward in getting improved security of hours for that company’s 9500 employees. It comes after negotiations broke down at the end of April and four months of action by members and supporters at stores around the country.


Unite delegates training at day at the Unite office

The new fairer rostering clause is the most important change in the agreement and applies to all members. The power to roster someone or not is the most important weapon for controlling and disciplining the workforce.

The new clause affirms the the importance of “rostering employees fairly and reasonably”.

It says that “Where additional hours become available in a restaurant current employees will be offered additional shifts before new employees are employed.” There is an added obligation that “additional shifts will be notified to employees on the crew notice board”.

When hours have to be reduced in store then the reduction “will be uniformly applied” so they can’t cut just some members shifts while other stay the same or even get more.

Where members have problems with their shifts they can raise the matter with their manager, get their own wage and time records, and if they are not satisfied with the response have the issue escalated to the HR department who must “investigate and share relevant information.”

A union representative can be involved at any stage of that process. If the union believes there is a store wide problem it can be taken to the HR department “who will investigate and share relevant information.”

The obligation to “share relevant information” is an important obligation as it has often been difficult in the past to get information from the company regarding rosters and hours in a store.

The company has also committed to stronger education of managers and monitoring and enforcement measures, including the issue in crew questionnaires and posters in store explaining the policy and the escalation process crew can use if they aren’t happy.

Union member only payment

All union members who joined before April 29 (when negotiations broke down) will receive a special payment when this agreement is ratified. Nonunion staff do not receive this payment. In return for this payment the union agrees to allow the company to pass on the terms and conditions to nonunion staff. The amount paid depend on the average hours worked in the previous 8 weeks. Union members who work over 30 hours on average get $200 (gross). Union members who work 21-30 hours on average get $125 (gross). Union members who work 20 hours or less on average get $100 (gross).

Improved breaks clause

An important part of the new agreement is ensuring that the current legal obligations to provide breaks (which is being repealed by the government) is maintained. The company had also wanted to go back to a 10-minute rest break. Unite has been able to get the legal rest break of 10 minutes increased to 15 minutes in all its collective agreements.

The new clause ensures a 15 minute paid break in the 3-hour minimum shift. The 30 minute unpaid meal break is required for working more than 4 hours and a second 15 minute break kicks in for working more than six hours. This is the first time it has actually been in the agreement that the second rest break must happen for working more than six hours.

Workers will be compensated an additional 15 minutes pay is they miss a rest break. We believe workers should also be compensated for missing the meal break but the company and union are in dispute on that issue with differing interpretations of a clause in the old collective agreement and will probably end up in court over the issue. If we are successful workers could be owed several million dollars.

In this agreement we included a clause that the union had the right to seek a penalty and compensation for individual workers if they miss their meal break. The company has also committed to doing a more thorough auditing process of stores to ensure compliance with the breaks clause.

Wage increase modest

The wage increase is modest and constrained by the 25 cent an hour minimum wage movement. This was increased to at least 30 cents an hour for most workers but McDonald’s still remain behind rates paid at KFC – a gap which we had hoped to close more.

There were other small improvements around training being available to everyone within three months of starting and the higher rates that result from completing the training to apply from the date their books are submitted. The agreement also spells out that no one can be forced to work outside their availability – especially overnight shifts.

The new collective agreement will also be made available to all new staff with a membership form attached for those who want to join the union. The collective agreement itself has been radically rewritten to make it make more user friendly and is now half its previous length because a lot of company propaganda has been removed.

The on-line vote on the new collective agreement is currently running at 90% in favour so it seems that the members agree that the agreement offers us an opportunity to push back against the casualisation that has marked the fast food industry since the deunionisation of the industry in the early 1990s.

In 2003 when Unite Union decided to start reorganising some of the sectors of the economy that had largely lost union representation and collective agreements we were horrified at the prevalence of what overseas has been dubbed “zero-hour contracts”. Most of the workers we represent today in fast food, movie theatres, security, call centres, and hotels had individual employment agreements that had no guaranteed hours. Workers also rarely got their proper breaks – especially in fast food.

In the UK the fact that an estimated one million workers are on zero hour contracts has become a national scandal. In the USA there is the beginnings of a widespread revolt against insecure hours and low wages with nationwide strikes planned for yesterday.

Whilst we haven’t eliminated those problems we have introduced clauses in all the main agreements that affirm the right to secure hours and constrain the employers right to hire new staff before offering the hours that are available to existing staff first. Each new collective agreement has tightened up on the clauses to increase the protections. With the most recent Restaurant Brands agreement (covering KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks) and now the McDonald’s agreement we have included clauses that demand the sharing of information with members and the union when disputes over staffing and rostering happens. We think this will significantly strengthen our position when we get into arguments over whether the company is actually complying with its obligations under the collective agreements. However Wendy’s is the only company we have an agreement for guaranteed hours for crew after 2 years service.

It is probable that the percentage of workers on zero hour contracts in New Zealand is larger than the UK. The labour movement as a whole should be making the issue a national scandal in this country.

In 2015 Unite will be renegotiating the major fast food contracts with the goal of moving from secure hours to guaranteed hours for most staff.

– See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/08/30/unite-makes-gains-on-necure-hours-in-mcdonalds-contract/#sthash.8IlHttbA.dpuf

(Unite National Director Mike Treen has a blog hosted on the TheDailyBlog website. The site is sponsored by several unions and hosts some of New Zealand’s leading progressive commentators. Mike’s blog will be covering union news and general political comment but the views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of Unite Union.)

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I spy cause for serious concern

18 Aug

By Matt McCarten

Herald on Sunday, August 18, 2013

The GCSB bill is due to be passed into law on Tuesday by a single vote.

The conventional wisdom is that opposition to the changes is a beltway issue, which means those in Parliament (and the press gallery) are the only ones who care about it.

After all, most people want the State to have the tools to protect its citizens from harm. That’s what John Key is hoping will carry that day.

But there’s something sinister about how our PM has managed changes he wants for spooks who spy on us. Here’s my unease:

1. Extending State spying powers has always been by political consensus. Labour’s David Shearer and NZ First’s Winston Peters have both said they were prepared to compromise. Their suggested amendments seemed reasonable. But Key is having none of it. Why?

2. The Law Society, the Privacy Commissioner, many respected jurists, and even a former GCSB boss oppose it publicly. When New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond says anyone who supports the bill has no right to turn up to Anzac events, then the penny must drop for mainstream Kiwis.

3. Key can now only get it through by Peter Dunne casting the determinative vote. The hypocrisy of Dunne supporting spies getting access to citizen’s emails, although he claimed personal privacy when refusing to give up his emails after he was accused of leaking classified documents, is contemptible. John Banks has already sold his party’s libertarian principles and supports the bill. Key now endorses the Act leader for Epsom at the next election. Join the grubby dots. No doubt Dunne will get endorsed for Ohariu once the vote goes through.

4. What happened to Kim Dotcom can happen to anyone. The raid on his house and the incompetence and covering up afterwards should be disturbing to every New Zealander. The bill gives more power. The GCSB spy system is linked into the US and UK spy network so foreign spooks will, in my view, be able to access our citizens’ information, too.

5. It seems a week doesn’t goes by without confidential personal information on individuals being leaked by a government department by incompetence. We have even had Cabinet ministers and ministry bosses happy to expose personal details of clients or employees when it serves their purposes. The temptation to use personal information against individuals will always be there.

6. There’s something scary about a politician deciding who gets spied on. When I was a teenager the then-PM Robert Muldoon released a list of his political opponents he said were being investigated by the Secret Intelligence Service. The smear was deliberate. Will a future leader use such information for political ends? You bet.

When civil society is potentially threatened, citizens need to register their concern. Tomorrow at 7pm opponents are meeting at the Auckland Town Hall. Sometimes it’s important to send a message.

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)

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Unite Union supports anti-GCSB meeting Monday 7pm

14 Aug

It’s you and I who pay the price

12 Aug

By Matt McCarten

Herald on Sunday, August 11, 2013

Quite rightly, the main news over Fonterra’s infected products has been the physical threat to the customer. Or more importantly, the children of its customers.

Once the headlines recede – and hopefully no one dies – the more damaging effect to us collectively is economically.

A mate told me this week that his girlfriend’s small milk product business to Asia was in effect destroyed overnight by Fonterra’s public relations train wreck. She won’t be the only one.

I have no doubt thousands of other people, and not just farmers, are going to be hit financially – now and over time.

We are led to believe that the titans who run our giant conglomerates are infallible gods. In the case of Fonterra, although it’s owned by Kiwi farmers, it seems locals aren’t up to sitting in the executive suite.

The latest chief executive has a strong Dutch accent. He probably doesn’t know what a Swanndri is and I’m sure his suits are made of the finest European cloth. But he must be a genius. After all, why would they pay him $100,000 a week?

If I were a Fonterra shareholder I’d want my money back.

Would you be surprised if in a few weeks we find out that the cause of the infection was some miserly cost-saving measure foisted on the cleaning staff or contractors?

The 100 per cent Pure NZ brand was always opportunist marketing. The smugly branded clean image it projected was never actually true. Now it’s being lampooned in international publications and many of our export businesses will be affected. The economic fallout could run into billions of dollars.

Every New Zealand exporter of foodstuffs will have their foreign competitors whispering to any potential client that our country’s health and safety regulations are a bit shonky and fail to protect people.

What hurts is that it’s true. The Pike River mine explosion is the obvious case where a corporation was allowed by the Government to ignore safety regulations – and 29 miners paid the price with their lives.

The Council of Trade Unions has been unsuccessful in trying to get the Government to intervene in the forestry industry where, in just five years, 23 foresters have been killed and nearly four a week injured, many seriously.

But you’d expect this Government to put workers’ safety behind corporate profits. They don’t seem to care about consumer protection either, though.

Remember the scandal of cheap Japanese imported cars when it first was exposed? After initially pretending it was only isolated rip-offs, the Government was forced to investigate. It found that the Japanese keep detailed records of their cars. It was soon evident that thousands of cars had had their speedometers wound back by tens and tens of thousands of kilometres.

It was a colossal billion-dollar fraud against New Zealanders.

It was all swept under the table because the Government at the time was in one of its cutting-red-tape campaigns and it was embarrassing to have their ideology weakness exposed.

The biggest example of the free market letting our people down, however, is sub-standard timber being permitted when building homes.

If you ever need an example of the free and unregulated market working this was it.

The market corrected itself all right. Builders were broke. People lost their homes and in several cases took their lives.

Government washed its hands of it. Council inspectors washed their hands. Taxpayers, ratepayers and home owners picked up the bill. Lawyers and bankers got rich.

Our shonky management at the top hasn’t hit our reputation overseas until now.

Fonterra’s emperors have been exposed to the rest of the world without clothes. Our political and business elites keep messing things up with impunity. Meanwhile the little people pay the price. Fonterra is just another example.

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)

Parliament, social change & coalitions

12 Aug

By Mike Treen

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

Can a party that wants fundamental changes in society be a minor part of a coalition government?

My conclusion is no after having been a participant in the Alliance Party’s implosion after attempting to do so from 1999-2002 as part of the Labour-led government. But that does not mean that a minor party can’t be an effective player in parliament for reforms while continuing to build a movement outside of parliament as well for real change.

Similar disasters befell radical left or Green parties in many countries. In most cases there existed a moderate centrist Labour or social democratic party that had strong support from working people but was committed to the existing system including the system of worldwide alliances with the US-led western imperial ambitions.

Pressure always comes on the smaller more radical party to oppose the more right wing parties and support the “lesser evil” of social democracy. Many working people who either have illusions that their traditional party will make real change, or simply accept – albeit unenthusiastically – the reality of lesser evilism will also often want their party to ally with parties to their left rather than their right in the hope of more progressive policies emerging. It is always worth remembering that not all Labour governments are a lesser evil. It would be hard to argue that was true for the 1984-90 Labour government.

This was true in 1999 in New Zealand. There was genuine enthusiasm when Helen Clark extended the olive branch to the Alliance Party at its conference that year and what was effectively an alternative coalition in waiting won the election.

Alliance leader Jim Anderton was made deputy prime minister and three others got cabinet posts but the party essentially disappeared from view into Labour’s embraces and it’s policies were seen as essentially the same. The government remained reasonably popular but the Alliance Party’s support collapsed in the polls. Technically the party retained the right to differentiate its own position from that of the larger partner while remaining in cabinet but this was rarely invoked. Then when the decision was made to send troops to Afghanistan it provoked a bitter internal fight with the vast majority of the party rejecting the decision by Anderton and a majority of Alliance MP’s to support the government’s position. The Alliance was eliminated from parliament at the 2002 election and Anderton’s faction has simply been absorbed into the Labour Party.

The problem for a genuinely radical party is that it only has minority support and cannot impose any significant policy change on a party committed to the existing system. So long as that system is based on serving the 1% them only small and relatively minor progressive changes are achievable. That was the case for the Alliance which achieved the establishment of Kiwibank and Paid Parental Leave and some labour law reforms despite significant opposition from elements in the Labour Party at the time. But these changes weren’t enough to significantly change the position of working people in the country. They weren’t enough to give people hope that unemployment could be eliminated, inequality radically reduced, democratic control exerted over the key sectors of the economy.

If the Alliance had remained outside of cabinet it could probably have negotiated for all the changes it actually achieved but remained free to agitate and mobilise people in the streets for the more radical changes that are needed to make a real improvement to the lives of working people.

The Greens will face a similar challenge if they can achieve a majority able to form a government with Labour after the next election. The Greens have already taken the first significant steps to becoming a “partner” in running the existing system rather than challenging it when they signed up to the ETS as a mechanism to combat climate change. They know that the ETS, or any other market-based mechanism, cannot make any real impact in combating a threat to humanity that has arisen as a consequence of the free market system in the first place.

Protecting the environment and protecting the rights and living standards of the vast majority of people in the world requires the system of capitalism to be superseded. That requires a radical social and political movement that aspires to win a majority in the country – not simply assume the role of “junior partner” to a party that remains fundamentally committed to the current system.

The Mana Movement, which is in my view a system challenging movement, may also face a similar problem if the election is close and Labour and the Greens (and NZ First?) require their vote to form a government. They too will be in a position to negotiate some reforms that benefit the people who support it as part of a negotiated agreement to allow a Labour-led government to be formed. By doing so they will respect the fact that for now they are a minority party and the majority of the people they want to represent have voted for Labour or the Greens. That democratic choice can be respected.

At the same time Mana can retain their freedom of criticism and ability to organise at the grass roots for the generally timid reforms to go further or against any reactionary policies that such a government will inevitably end up promoting. So long as these parties in government are trying to make a system “work” they can’t escape ultimately disappointing their their own supporters because for this system to work it will continue to produce economic crisis, unemployment and environmental destruction. Movements like Mana can then provide a progressive alternative for those people rather than have that disappointment captured by the right.

– See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/08/09/coalition-governments-and-real-change/#sthash.iW2o8OQR.dpuf

(Unite National Director Mike Treen has a blog hosted on theTheDailyBlog website. The site is sponsored by several unions and hosts some of New Zealand’s leading progressive commentators. Mike’s blog will be covering union news and general political comment but the views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of Unite Union.)

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Stopwork meetings planned against anti-union law changes

12 Aug

McDonald’s Clendon lunchtime strike (8/813)

9 Aug

Mcds Clendon always wanting to be the first out of the gates, leads the first strikes of the day on Thursday for Auckland. The strike was lead by their union strong site delegates who organised there own strike in protest at the lack of movement by McDonald’s on there pay claims. Mcds Clendon had 7 workers who walked off their shift to show support to the Mcstrike Campaign. Of those 7 workers 3 of them had their first taste of a Mcstrike. Well done Clendon community who supported by not buying McDonald’s during the strike.

 

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