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Minimum wage increase useless without end to zero hours

25 Feb

Unite Union has welcomed the 50 cent an hour increase in the minimum wage but says that no matter what level the minimum wage reached it is of little benefit unless it is combined with an end to zero hour contracts.

Unite is calling on the government to set a target to have the minimum wage progressively increased from its current level of about 50% of the average wage to two-thirds of the average – which was the standard in New Zealand in the past.

The entire benefit of a pay rise can be lost for someone on around 20 hours a week if they lose only one hour’s pay. We will be taking a claim for guaranteed hours to be the norm in the negotiations this year with fast food companies and others who have most staff working under what have been dubbed zero-hour contracts because they have no guaranteed minimum number of hours.

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SkyCity boss misleads public over workers lost shifts

24 Oct

SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison “not telling the truth”.

By Mike Treen (Unite National Director) and John Crocker (Unite SkyCity Organiser)

SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison has defended the employment practices at his company in an “Opinion” piece entitled “Human Capital key to corporate success” in the NZ Herald on Thursday.

A number of his claims are misleading, contain only partial truths or are exaggerations. In one important respect when discussing a SkyCity worker what he says is simply untrue.

To pride oneself on being a non-minimum wage employer when the start rate for many positions in the employment agreement is only 10 cents above the minimum wage is a partial truth at best. Apprentice chefs are also paid less than the minimum wage so to say “all” SkyCity employees are paid above is not accurate.

To boast about the training staff receive when the company deliberately changed its policy in order to stop paying trainee table game dealers during their training is a bit misleading. Now when SkyCity takes employees from WINZ, the taxpayer is paying a benefit to the worker during unpaid staff training.  They then subsidise their wages for a period if subsequently employed.

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Mike Treen – “We can change this government.”

18 Sep

National Unite Director Mike Treen lays out the choices for workers in Aotearoa as we prepare for the election on Saturday. Share hard! https://unitenews.wordpress.com/about/

Fast-Food Workers Seeking $15 Wage Are Planning Civil Disobedience

2 Sep


Demonstrators outside a McDonald’s restaurant in New York in May. Fast-food workers seeking higher wages plan new strikes and demonstrations this week.

From the New York Times

By Stephen Greenhouse

The next round of strikes by fast-food workers demanding higher wages is scheduled for Thursday, and this time labor organizers plan to increase the pressure by staging widespread civil disobedience and having thousands of home-care workers join the protests.

The organizers say fast-food workers — who are seeking a $15 hourly wage — will go on strike at restaurants in more than 100 cities and engage in sit-ins in more than a dozen cities.

But by having home-care workers join, workers and union leaders hope to expand their campaign into a broader movement.

“On Thursday, we are prepared to take arrests to show our commitment to the growing fight for $15,” said Terrence Wise, a Burger King employee in Kansas City, Mo., and a member of the fast-food workers’ national organizing committee. At a convention that was held outside Chicago in July, 1,300 fast-food workers unanimously approved a resolution calling for civil disobedience as a way to step up pressure on the fast-food chains.

“They’re going to use nonviolent civil disobedience as a way to call attention to what they’re facing,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions of dollars helping to underwrite the campaign. “They’re invoking civil rights history to make the case that these jobs ought to be paid $15 and the companies ought to recognize a union.”

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Workers to get a better, fairer deal under Green Party

2 Sep

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.

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Putting an end to zero-hour contracts in 2015

25 Aug

By Mike Treen, National Director, Unite Union

All around the world attention is being drawn to what have been dubbed in the UK “zero-hour contracts”. These are contracts that don’t have any guaranteed hours even though the worker may be regularly employed.

Unite Union has been struggling with exactly this problem since we started organising in sectors that had lost union protection during the 1990s.

What we discovered was that large sectors of the working class in this country had no guaranteed hours of work. This applied to fast food restaurants, security, cinemas, call centres and hotels. This doesn’t just apply to completely casualised sectors. The SkyCity Casino in Auckland is a 24-7 business with over 3000 staff. It knows pretty exactly how many customers it will have on any particular day of the week. It has every ability to have most workers on full-time contracts. Instead it keeps two out of three workers on part time contracts with only 8 hours of work guaranteed each week.

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Low-Wage Workers of the World, Unite!

30 Jun

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.

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