A major survey of fast food workers in New Zealand has
exposed the reality of “Zero Hour Contracts” for workers and some of the myths used to justify them.
Over a thousand fast food union members working for the major brands in New Zealand responded to Unite Union’s online survey, with nearly 700 giving detailed information on their working hours over the previous four weeks. That is the biggest response Unite Union has ever had to a member survey.
“Unfortunately it confirms in detail what we already knew from our worksite visits” said Unite Union National Secretary Gerard Hehir.
“Most fast food workers are willing and able to work more hours on a regular basis but are simply not given the opportunity. Over half who took part actually want an increase to 35 hours or more a week. We know hours become available on regular basis as other staff leave, but the companies choose to employ new staff and allocate hours week to week rather than offer any security of income.”
Wendy’s workers first strike at Hornby, Christchurch, on February 18, 2015
Unite Union has accused the Wendy’s corporation of intimidating workers to stop striking. Workers have been pulled aside by managers to caution them against striking "or there would be consequences for their future at Wendy’s". One union delegate was called into a meeting with the company CEO Danielle Lendich and told not to join the strikes.
Ironically today has been designated a global day of action in defence of the right to strike by the International Trade Union Confederation.
Unite action at Wendy’s is part of the union campaign against zero hour contracts in the industry. The company has written to staff and the public to say that all staff get hours each week but what they don’t say is that most staff have zero hours guaranteed. The only group of workers with guaranteed hours at Wendy’s are those with two years service and "open availability" over six or seven days in the week.
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
On September 4, 2014 9 Rockford and Peoria the US, fast food workers were arrested engaging in civil disobedience because of commitment to do whatever it takes to win $15 and a union without retaliation.
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.