Archive | December, 2014

New Leadership at Unite

10 Dec

The 2014 AGM of Unite Union saw many new leaders step up and a farewell to one of the Union’s

Featured imageMatt McCarten stood down as National Secretary. Matt had been on leave for the most of the year after taking up the Chief of Staff position for the Labour party in parliament. Matt played the pivotal role in the transformation of Unite from a small union with a few hundred members to a ground breaking movement that achieved what was thought internationally to be impossible – organising casualised and low paid workers and negotiating national collective agreements. Matt’s skills and leadership will be missed but it is no surprise that he is once again taking the fight for working people onto the bigger stage of national politics.

Gerard Hehir was elected unopposed as National Secretary. Gerard has been Unite President for the past five years. Mike Treen remains as National Director and Tom Buckley as Assistant Secretary.

There was a change to the Presidental positions with the President and Vice-Presidental roles being replaced by two Co-Presidents (one of whom is required to be a woman). Elected were Tina Barnett (SkyCity, Auckland) and Heleyni Pratley (Unite Union, Wellington). A special thanks is due to Duncan Allan who has served as Vice-president over the past few years.

Of the thirteen strong Executive members (ten elected, three co-opted at the AGM to ensure good representation) there are eleven new faces: Continue reading

Fast food strikes in US

9 Dec



Push for Higher Pay Spreads as Home Care Workers, Convenience Store Cashiers, Discount Store Clerks, Airport Cleaners and Ramp Workers, Walmart Associates, Federally-Contracted Service Workers Call for $15 an Hour

In Just Two Years, Fast Food Cooks and Cashiers Have Sparked Broad Movement to Lift Wages for Families Living on the Brink—8 Million Low-Wage Workers Have Already Seen Raises

Two years after 200 New York City fast-food workers walked off their jobs, sparking a nationwide movement for $15 and union rights, cooks and cashiers at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and other major national chains went on strike Thursday in more than 190 cities— the most ever—joined for the first time by convenience store clerks and dollar-store workers in two dozen cities.

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Unite Union conference declares war on zero hour contracts

9 Dec

​Unite fast food delegates send a message of support to US workers

By Mike Treen, Unite Union National Director

150 Unite Union delegates resolved to launch a campaign in the new year to end zero hour contracts in the fast food industry at their national conference December 1-2.

At their national conference Unite discussed recent cases where the existence of these type of agreements have been used against workers.

Ex-McDonald’s worker Stephanie Phillips was at work even though she had three broken ribs and a punctured lung. When the pain and discomfort got too much she asked to go home but this was refused. When a customer saw her coughing up blood and complained she was transferred to the drive through. She was only allowed to leave after 5 hours. Workers are able to be treated this way because they lack the power to assert their rights. They know that if they do speak up the managers take their revenge by cutting their hours.

Restaurant Brands which owns the KFC brand implemented a new roster last week cutting hundreds of hours from workers regular roster without consultation. Some staff have been working regular 5-6 hour shifts for many years only to have their shifts cut to three hours. Management hours have also been cut so that it will be impossible for them to run the store without themselves clocking out and working unpaid. There will be added pressure on crew to not take breaks and work unpaid as well. Again the company believes it can do this because there are no guaranteed hours for crew at KFC. Suspicion is widespread that these cost cutting measures are designed to boost profits so that the share price hits $4 and triggers a $1 million bonus for the chief executive.

Opposition party leaders including Andrew Little from Labour, Winston Peters from NZ First and Metiria Turei from the Greens spoke to the Unite conference in support of the union’s objectives.

Action Station has also swung in behind the campaign to ban zero hour contracts.

SkyCity cleaners beat contracting out

5 Dec

By John Crocker, SkyCity SEA-Unite organiser

SEA-Unite has finally claimed victory in our 6 month campaign to oppose the outsourcing of the Cleaning Services department. The decision of the Employment Relations Authority that SkyCity was not compliant with the unions’ Collective Agreement was delivered Friday 14th of November and effectively blocks the outsourcing of the cleaners.

The union’s campaign against the proposed outsourcing began in May with the initial consultation process. Multiple submissions were made, in writing and at meetings, regarding the proposal. SEA-Unite pointed out flaws in the process, breaches of good faith, bad results with outsourcing cleaning in the past as well as the whole proposal being against SkyCity’s core values and its commitments in the Collective Agreement. These consultations did not convince SkyCity but laid the groundwork for the later ERA case.

At the same time SEA-Unite began an industrial campaign to show SkyCity how strongly staff felt in opposition to the proposal. First the union circulated a petition that gathered an amazing 770 signatures to show just how widespread the opposition was. Then the cleaners themselves wrote letters to the CEO. There was a photo campaign as well. Lastly there was a picket, the first since 2011 to show how strongly the opposition was felt.

SkyCity workers with petition

When SkyCity insisted on proceeding, against overwhelming worker opposition and their own stated values, the unions adopted a legal approach, first attending mediation and then filing the case with the Authority. The hearing took place over two days in late October with over half the affected cleaners in attendance and many giving evidence.

The Employment Relations Authority found that SkyCity was in breach of section 2 of the Collective Agreement which deals with SkyCity’s obligations towards employees as well as section 4 of the Employment Relations Act which deals with good faith.

This is a big deal for all workers at SkyCity! This decision stops SkyCity from outsourcing the cleaners and sets the bar high for any future outsourcing of any department. SEA-Unite showed SkyCity how far we will take things when we know they’ve got it wrong. This was possible due to the hundreds of union members at SkyCity, their support and the strength of the unions.

Zero tolerance for zero hours

4 Dec

Fast food workers are on the frontline in the fight against zero-hour contracts, with a union saying bosses have all the power.

A street full of fast food signs

Working the night shift a few months ago Martha, a 19-year-old KFC worker in Wellington, got into a dispute with her boss over whose job it was to finish a task. When she refused to do it, the “big boss” reminded her that he was currently hiring new staff – an implicit threat that her hours could be cut.

“In my head, I was thinking ‘is that a threat? Are you threatening me … Are you serious? I’ve been working here for four years’. And for him to just say that … I wasn’t mad, it was just hurtful.”

Martha’s voice breaks as she talks about work, and before long, tears are running down her face. “Sorry,” she says. “It’s just frustrating.”

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