This Saturday, February 14, over 100 fast food workers from across New Zealand will be gathering in Auckland to discuss their upcoming battle to end zero hour contracts in the fast food industry. The conference is also open to anyone who wants to actively support the workers campaign.
This issue has emerged as the number one problem for workers in the industry over recent years. Almost no hourly paid staff have guaranteed hours. Attempts through previous collective agreements to regulate the allocation of hours in a fair and transparent manner have been unsuccessful. Unite has collective agreements with McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands (KFC, Car’s Jr, Pizza Hut and Starbucks); Burger King and Wendy’s. Whilst real improvements have been made it has proved difficult to get the companies to abandon their attachment to “flexibility” around rostered hours. The best we have achieved is to have clauses that specify the need to advertise hours to existing staff before new staff are hired but that has proved difficult to enforce.
The companies have a turnover of staff of about 66% a year and we have tried to argue that this could be reduced with regular guaranteed hours but the companies seem unmoved by that argument. They seem to prefer the control that zero hour contracts give over their staff. These type of contracts also exist in the security industry, hotels and many call centres where Unite represents workers as well.
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.
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.
Workers in Central Auckland march to early vote when the polls open. Unite Union and the SFWU are encouraging our members to vote to change the government.
The current National Government has tried to attack unions and workers entitlements, while most opposition parties have promised to increase the minimum wage by $2 an hour in their first year in government.
Workers met outside Skycity and marched down to Liston House in Hobson Street to be the first workers to vote en masse.
Authorised by Michael Treen,
6a Western Springs Road, Morningside.
“We wanna bring down the Government- we wanna bring, bring down the Government!” was the chant on Hobson Street as 60 workers walked off the job from Skycity to go and vote for change.
Union delegates Tina Barnett and Gina Williams were up the front with a massive banner- “National- Not Our Future”. Workers from both Unite and SFWU held placards that demanded a living wage, secure hours, affordable housing, more rights at work including the right to strike and an end to restructuring and subcontracting. Skycity Cleaners directly affected by a new round of artificial subcontracting were first to cast their votes against National.
The experience of voting collectively together as workers was empowering. We were joined by Labour MPs Darien Fenton and Jacinda Adern, and the Mana Movement Tamaki Makaurau’s candidate Kereame Pene. Unite supports a vote for those parties who are commited to changing the government- Labour, the Greens and Internet Mana.
A collective march to the Auckland CBD voting booth has been organised for Saturday September 13th, leaving Aotea Square at 2pm. Join the facebook event page here-
On Friday the 18th of July, Unite will be picketing SkyCity Casino urging them not to outsource the Cleaning Services department. This proposal will affect almost 100 workers, some with more than 10 years loyal service at the casino.
Unite workers and supporters will be rallying from 1-3pm outside the main casino entrance in opposition to the proposal. Outsourcing leads to reduced job security and uncertainty and the cleaners have strongly expressed their desire to remain directly employed by SkyCity.
SkyCity was given the International Convention Centre approval on the premise that it was a job creator. It has now shown how happy it is to reduce its workforce and we believe most of the 800 supposed jobs will be part time or casual and wonder how many more jobs SkyCity could shred before it is even opened.
Please come and show your support for these vulnerable workers as we ask SkyCity to do the right thing and keep their jobs.
Unite Union sign on front of 300 Queen Street
(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
Extending Unite’s reach
Unite was always looking to ways to bring our members additional benefits. In late 2006, Unite contracted with Te Wananga o Aotearoa – a Maori-led tertiary institution – to offer computer classes for union members. We set up a Unite school in central Auckland and provided classes days and evenings, seven days a week, so our members could attend. A casino worker on a rotating 24-7 shift could enrol and complete a course. For a few years, one of the main buildings in Queen St was named “Unite House” with red flags flying from the roof – much to the consternation of friend and foe alike. Thousands of workers graduated from these courses.
In July 2006, SkyCity casino workers won pay rises of 5-9% after a campaign of two-hour, all-out strikes several times a week combined with rolling strikes by department. The company was taken by surprise at the determination of the SEA-Unite members.
SEA-Unite members join picket in 2006
In late 2006 and 2007, Unite unionised a factory owned by Independent Liquor at the request of some workers. This was a very anti-union employer. Strikes and pickets were needed to get a collective agreement, the first in the company for 20 years. After a while, however, we realised that we were probably getting beyond core business and agreed to allow the Engineers Union which covered workers in other liquor manufacturing plants to take over representation.
Unite also extended its representation with a hotel campaign involving strikes (and occasional lockouts) at a number of hotels in early 2007. The ADT-Armourguard monitoring centre struck on Christmas Eve – the busiest night of the year to secure an improved offer for a renewed collective agreement.