Green Party co-leader Russell Norman speaking to Unite Union delegates conference 2011
The Green Party today announced a workers’ package that is part of its plan to build a fairer society where all workers have enough to live on.
The key policy points in the Green Party’s plan to make life better for all New Zealand workers are:
1. Lifting low wages by moving the minimum wage to $18 an hour by 2017 and introducing a Living Wage for the core Government sector.
2. A new legislative minimum redundancy package of four weeks’ pay.
3. Bringing top pay back into line requiring companies to report on the gap between top and bottom pay.
4. Measures to boost bargaining power and make workplaces safer and more democratic.
From The New York Times
A worker at an apparel store at Woodbury Common, an outlet mall north of New York City, said that even though some part-time employees clamored for more hours, the store had hired more part-timers and cut many workers’ hours to 10 a week from 20.
As soon as a nurse in Illinois arrived for her scheduled 3-to-11 p.m. shift one Christmas Day, hospital officials told her to go home because the patient “census” was low. They also ordered her to remain on call for the next four hours — all unpaid.
An employee at a specialty store in California said his 25-hour-a-week job with wildly fluctuating hours wasn’t enough to live on. But when he asked the store to schedule him between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. so he could find a second job, the store cut him to 12 hours a week.
These are among the experiences related by New York Times readers in more than 440 responses to an article published in Wednesday’s paper about a fledgling movement in which some states and cities are seeking to limit the harshest effects of increasingly unpredictable and on-call work schedules. Many readers voiced dismay with the volatility of Americans’ work schedules and the inability of many part-timers to cobble together enough hours to support their families.
Courtney Moore took a second job at McDonald’s after her hours were cut at Walmart.CreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times
In a comment that was the most highly recommended by others — 307 of them — a reader going by “pedigrees” wrote that workers were often reviled for not working hard enough or not being educated enough. “How can they work more jobs or commit to a degree program if they don’t know what their work schedule will be next week, much less next month?” the reader wrote. “It’s long past time for some certainty for workers. They drive the economy.”
The following article is an important look at the struggle of fast food workers around the world from the viewpoint of socialist theory. This involves understanding the growing importance of these types of jobs in capitalist economies and what role these workers may play on getting rid of capitalist exploitation. There are some significant theoretical issues that are raised by the authors but they are worth studying – including by workers in these industries. As a union leader at Unite Union in New Zealand which represents over 3000 fast food workers I know it will help me in understanding my enemy and defeating him.
It is reprinted from the blog A Critique of Crisis Theory. Anyone who is serious about understanding and overcoming capitalism today should follow this blog.
Mike Treen, National Director, Unite Union, NZ.
Low-Wage Workers of the World, Unite!
On May 15, 2014, a worldwide strike of McDonald’s workers involved workers in at least 33 countries, both imperialist and oppressed.
While participation in the strike varied, and most workers who participated were out for only an hour or so, this was a historic event all the same. It points the way forward to a far more internationalist future for the workers’ movement. To understand why this is so, we have to examine long-term underlying economic changes making the low-wage movement both possible and necessary.
(The following history was prepared as part of the contribution by Unite Union to the international fast food workers meeting in New York in early May. Unions officials and workers were fascinated by the story we were able to tell which in many ways was a prequel to the international campaign today.)
All four parts of this series can be downloaded as a single PDF file from here
Restaurant Brands delegates join Maritime Union picket, Auckland Wharf
By Mike Treen, Unite National Director
April 29, 2014
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, workers in New Zealand suffered a massive setback in their levels of union and social organisation and their living standards. A neo-liberal, Labour Government elected in 1984 began the assault and it was continued and deepened by a National Party government elected in 1990.
The “free trade”policies adopted by both Labour and the National Party led to massive factory closures. The entire car industry was eliminated and textile industries were closed. Other industries with traditionally strong union organisation such as the meat industry were restructured and thousands lost their jobs. Official unemployment reached 11.2% in the early 1990s. It was higher in real terms. Official unemployment for Maoris (who make up 14% of the population) was 30%, again higher in real terms. Working class communities were devastated.
The National Party government presided over a deep and long recession from 1990-1995 that was in part induced by its savage cuts to welfare spending and benefits. They also introduced a vicious anti-union law. When the Employment Contracts Act was made law on May Day 1990, every single worker covered by a collective agreement was put onto an individual employment agreement identical to the terms of their previous collective. In order for the union to continue to negotiate on your behalf, you had to sign an individual authorisation. It was very difficult for some unions to manage that. Many were eliminated overnight. Voluntary unionism was introduced and closed shops were outlawed. All of the legal wage protections which stipulated breaks, overtime rates, Sunday rates and so on, went. Minimum legal conditions were now very limited – three weeks holiday and five days sick leave was about the lot. Everything else had to be negotiated again. It was a stunning assault on working people. Union bargaining, where it continued, was mostly concessionary bargaining for the next decade.
Unite National Director Mike Treen and McDonald’s delegate Taylor Mcloon visit Philadelphia as part of a week of action in the USA in support of fast food workers. The Philadelphia rally was in support of an increase in the minimun wage.
By Mike Treen
National Director, Unite Union
(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)
The government decision to increase the minimum wage by 50 cents was an interesting decision on a number of levels.
$14.25 is clearly not enough to live on – especially given that minimum wage workers often also work in industries that have no guaranteed hours week to week.
An immediate increase to $15 an hour and then a staged increase over the next few years to the CTU target of 66% of the average wage would have been more reasonable and done something to put a dent into the gross inequality and low wage culture that operates in this country.