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Wendy’s workers take action over stolen lieu days

11 Feb

US McDonald’s workers Genoby Jimes (2nd from left) and Anggie Godoy (3rd from left) join Wendy’s workers outside the Royal Oak store in Auckland February 10. (Photo by Jos Wheeler)

Wendy’s workers from five stores in Auckland and Papakura walked off the job yesterday over the company’s theft of their right to “alternative days” off or “lieu days” for working on a public holiday.

The workers were joined outside the Royal Oak store by two McDonald’s workers from the USA who are part of the campaign in Los Angeles for “$15 and hour and a Union“. Anggie Godoy, 19, and Genoby Jimes, 27, are in New Zealand to support Unite Union’s campaign against zero hour contracts in the fast food industry and will be attending a national fast food workers gathering in Auckland on February 14. Meetings are also planned in Wellington on February 11 and 12 with the Council of Trade Unions, members of parliament and union activists

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Letter to Minister on abuse of breaks law

21 Nov

Michael Woodhouse
Minister of Labour
Parliament Buildings
Wellington
6160

20 November 2014

Dear Mr Woodhouse,

Yesterday I received a concerning email from one of our union members.

It stated that:

“This morning in the briefing our manager declared that its now her right to decide when we take our breaks, and that since it was a busy day no one could have one until 3pm. Everyone started at 8am, and were due to finish at 3:30pm or 4pm.”

This is a direct consequence of the recently passed rest breaks legislation.

You have stated through the media that these law changes were aimed at providing flexibility, not taking away rights. You said that you saw it applying in situations such as a sole operator at a petrol-station, sole-charge air traffic controllers at small airports, or nurses on a night shift.

You also said that employees and employers would be able to negotiate their rest breaks.

“I think we patronise employees by pretending they cannot negotiate with their employer for a fair outcome.”

This law has not even come into effect yet and already this legislation has been used as an excuse to take advantage of workers at a hotel in Auckland. These workers are not sole-charge. This is not a small employer. This is a well-known nationwide brand. These workers do an incredibly physical job all day involving heaving lifting, bending, pushing and pulling. Many of these workers are on work visas, many do not speak English as a first language.

These workers were not given the chance to negotiate their breaks. They were simply told during a morning staff briefing that their breaks were changing from now on and they were to work almost an entire shift without a rest break. Even if they were able to negotiate their breaks how could they do this successfully given that they are already in a vulnerable position, being that many are migrant workers?

This is the direct consequence of the law change you supported. This is the first example. We expect there will be many, many more.

I have some questions for you Minister.

a) Is this the actual intended effect for this legislation, do you think this is fair and reasonable?

b) Do you think this is reasonable in terms of an employers’ responsibility regarding the health and safety of these workers?

c) How do you suggest workers go about negotiating their tea breaks with their employer, especially non-union workers?

d) Do you have any further advice for these workers?

Mr Woodhouse, I am eager to discuss the effects of this law change with you further. Would you be willing to meet with us and a delegation of our union members?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Shanna Reeder
Hotels Organiser
Unite Union
029 44 55 703
shanna@unite.org.nz

Christchurch chef awarded close to $175,000 in compensation

13 Nov

(Reprinted from the NZ Herald)

By Sophie Ryan @SophieRyan

A chef employed at a Christchurch Vietnamese restaurant has been awarded $174,356.65 after working for five years without being paid, in what the Employment Relations Authority calls one of an increasing number of cases of exploitation of migrant workers.

His brother has also been awarded $14,386.73 for not being paid either.Bao Ho Van Nguyen and Vu Ho Van Nguyen both worked in Hue Kim Thi Ta’s restaurant Little Saigon.

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Workers rights weakened by new laws – fightback needed

3 Nov

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By Mike Treen,
National Director, Unite Union

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

The government’s changes to the employment laws are designed to weaken workers bargaining power – at both the individual and collective level.

30-day rule

The old law required an employer with a collective agreement in place to employ new staff on the terms of the collective for the first 30-days. This was seen as protecting the collective from being undermined by employing new staff on inferior conditions. With only 9% of the private sector workforce in unions , only a minority or workplaces in the private sector will have collective employment agreements. Even where they exist, like in the fast food industry where Unite has half its members, we often only have a minority or workers as members because the industry is 24-7 in small sites scattered across the country with a 100% annual staff turnover and usually with hostile owners.

This is hard to do in a minimum wage industry. It has been hard to move companies off that rate as a start rate. However we have succeeded in getting some steps built into the agreement for after six months or one year. A real danger would exist if a company offered staff a start rate that was higher than the collective but without some of the service steps that would apply later. Workers would be tempted to take the higher rate and not join the union and therefore the collective.

Breaks

The current legal right to a 10-minute paid break for shifts of two to 6 hours and a second plus a 30 minute unpaid break for shifts of four or more hours is being removed. The worker also loses the right to nominate that the shifts are spread evenly through their shifts. The employers obligation now is simply “provide [you] with a reasonable opportunity for rest, refreshment, and attending to personal matters” that is “appropriate for the duration of [your] work period.” When these breaks are taken is by agreement or failing that at the employers discretion. When an employer feels they can’t provide you with a break (or you agree) then they must compensate you for the loss with at least an equivalent.

Luckily nearly all the Unite Union collective employment agreements have the old legal requirements incorporated in them. In addition our agreements have a paid 15-minute break rather than the 10 minutes that had been in the law. But it has been a fact of life that it is difficult to enforce the agreements around breaks because workers are made to feel they are letting the team down if (as is often the case) the shop or workplace is understaffed. By making it a law in 2008 it gave workers more courage to assert their rights.

One small positive aspect of the new law is the assertion of the need for some sort of at least equivalent compensation if you miss your entitlement. In the past many workers will have worked through their paid breaks without compensation but now there is an obligation on the employer to at least provide equivalent paid time off. We actually had one employer argue in the employment authority that because workers were paid when working through their paid break there was no disadvantage.

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Employers liquidating companies to avoid paying minimum entitlements

24 Jul

By Tali Williams, First Union Organiser

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

Across the union movement we have seen a number of documented cases now where companies are liquidating their business in order to avoid their legal obligations, in terms of paying the minimum entitlements to their workers.

The most recent example is the case of Momo Tea. Momo Tea workers raised a case related to unpaid wages and annual leave among other breaches to their minimum workers rights. The workers say they were bought into a meeting and told by their employer that because they had raised these breaches the company would be liquidated and they all had to clean up the restaurant and leave as they had lost their jobs. The following day, despite the liquidation, the restaurant carried on trading. The company had simply transferred workers from their other restaurants to cover the shifts.

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Hotel ordered to pay $80,000 in outstanding wages

22 Jul

An Auckland hotel has been ordered by the Employment Relations Authority to pay nearly $80,000 in outstanding wages to two employees.

Filipino couple Abraham and Nancy Agustin were employed at Auckland Harbour Oaks, and alleged the hotel had underpaid them and withheld part of their salaries.

The employers maintained their payment regime is correct but failed to provide any wage and time records to the authority, as required by law.

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Cafe chef awarded $50,000 for unfair dismissal

21 Jul

A former chef at an Auckland cafe has been awarded more than $50,000 in unpaid wages and compensation for unjustified dismissal.

The Employment Relations Authority was told by Lin Zhang that she had been employed by Tan Pacific at its cafe business in Auckland after travelling to New Zealand on a student visa.

Tan Pacific failed to show up for any hearings or respond to allegations throughout the authority’s investigation.

Ms Zhang told the ERA as evidence that her student visa was set to expire when she saw a job for a full time chef at BB’s Cafe advertised.

Ms Zhang said during the course of the interview she told her employer William Tan her visa was about to expire.

She said Mr Tan told her he would offer her the job and help with her visa application if she paid him $23,000 as a bond, to ensure she would remain working for him for two years.

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