Archive | Unite Media Release RSS feed for this section

Zero Hour Myths exposed by Fast Food worker survey

22 Feb

10991395 10155175547945006 3819573757507372076 nA 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.”

Continue reading


22 Feb

Some employers and politicians are trying to defend “zero hours” contracts as in the workers’ interest and trying to shift the focus away from the core problem of not having 

Results from Unite Union’s survey of fast food workers shows how far these ‘myths” are form reality:

Myth 1: Zero Hours Contracts give workers the flexibility they want.

Many fast food workers do want part-time work (although many who are part- time want to be full time – half of all workers wanted additional hours that would take them to 35 hours a week or more). There is a huge difference between regular part-time work with regular hours and a zero hours contract where you only find out your weekly hours and shifts a few days before they start. Fast food companies like the flexibility of zero hours contracts – their workers do not.

79% in the survey said that changes to their weekly hours causes them problems with paying basic living costs like rent, power, phone, food and transport. 42% said these problems happen on a regular basis. The comments on the difficulties roster changes caused were numerous and disturbing:

“If my hours drop anymore I won’t be able to feed my family.”

“It has severely affected my credit rating, I was referred to the nz budgeting service, due to my hours getting cut my bills suffered, I received over $4000 in police fines as I couldn’t afford to reg and wof my car due to change in my hours/income. My children lived off noodles and eggs for their main meal approx 4 times a week. Last but not least, I had to resort to criminal activity to ensure my children had lunch for school and warm clothes/shoes during the winter. Desperate times called for desperate measures :/

“Most the time i have to put off a different bill each week to be able to pay rent or buy food there has been a few times and a whole month where I
haven’t been able to buy any food at all because my hours were cut down. I use to be on 45 a week now I’m lucky to get 25.”

“One staff member with 2 children under three has had her hours almost halved in about 5 weeks and management just argue the point and don’t listen”

Myth 2: Zero Hour contracts are jobs where you can’t work for someone else and you have to wait by the phone ready to work at a moments notice.

Those are just one type of these contracts. In fact a “zero hours contract” is just what it says: an employment agreement where there are no guaranteed hours, regardless of whether you are told your hours week by week or day by day. Apart from a few salaried managers, all fast food workers are on zero hours contracts, along with tens of thousands of other workers in the hospitality and retail sectors. Our survey showed that fast food workers worked an average of 25.5 weekly rostered hours, but that they also worked an average of 3.2 additional hours at short notice.

Continue reading

#fastfoodglobal protests kick off in Auckland

15 May

Workers in Auckland will be joining forces with fast food workers – in North and South America, across

#fastfoodglobal - the global fight of fast food workers for decent wages and conditions

#fastfoodglobal – the global fight of fast food workers for decent wages and conditions

Europe, Asia, and in Africa – to stand up and take action for fairer pay, that anyone who works for a living deserves.

Low wage workers will rally outside McDonalds flagship restaurant in Auckland today (Thursday 15th May) as the first action in a new worldwide campaign for fair pay, and the right for fast food workers to join unions.

The campaign, #fastfoodglobal was called by the IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association) after a worldwide conference of fast food workers held in New York last week.

Unite organiser, Joe Carolan, who recently returned from the US conference, said:

“New Zealand is one of very few countries that have union agreements covering fast food workers. Many of the conditions workers in other countries are struggling to win – we have already achieved here. We are taking action today to support Fast Food workers in the USA and other countries who are fighting for these same conditions.”
Continue reading

McD’s workers say “Give us a break!”

27 Jun

McDonald’s workers around New Zealand are taking action today with the message “Give us a break” because they claim that they are being cheated of their breaks by the company.

Unite Union National Director Mike Treen says that workers often miss their breaks or are rostered meal breaks an hour after they start work in violation of the existing law on breaks.

“We have filed a case with the Employment Relations Authority over one aspect of this. We have evidence that the company rostered workers for four hour shifts but worked them longer than four hours without providing a meal break. This is a clear breach of the law. In addition they company has breached the worker collective agreement because they also haven’t compensated the workers for he lost break as required by the contract.

A mediation session between McDonald’s and Unite is scheduled tomorrow on this issue.

“We estimate the workers have been cheated of at least $2.5 million dollars.

“We have the wage and time records for two stores covering a four month period. The evidence is clear. Now the company is refusing to give us wage and time records for all ours members to hide their misconduct which we believe is another violation of the law.

“A worker at McDonald’s will be sacked for putting an extra slice of bacon on a burger. Who in the company is being held accountable for stealing millions of dollars out of the pockets of minimum wage workers?

“The government’s plan to change the breaks law will only make the situation worse. If a major multinational employing thousand of vulnerable young and migrant workers can snub its nose at the law on breaks then what can we expect to happen at smaller workplaces in the country.”

McD’s Picketers assaulted

10 May

By Mike Treen, Unite Union National Director

Members and supporters of Unite Union were assaulted last night by security staff at McDonald’s Linwood in Christchurch.

A number of people were shoved, thrown to the ground and stomped on. One person has a broken toe as a result. A police paddy wagon arrived as the picket ended.

Christchurch picket May 9

This is the second time in a week that this has happened.

Friday last week members and supporters were roughly shoved aside and some pushed to the ground by 20 to 30 police.

They cops had arrived with two paddy wagons and without speaking to me or anyone else in charge as to what we were doing wrong, the police formed up in a line to shove a peaceful picket away from the entrance to the Queen St McDonald’s store. It appeared to us that the police were acting as the multinational companies private security.

I have been a participant in dozens of union pickets. I have never seen them physically push pickets aside without first explaining what we could legally do or not do. In nearly all cases the parameters of the protest or picket are resolved peacefully.

On last Friday’s picket the officer in charge made no attempt to speak to us. When I approached him he was not interested any any dialogue on the issue. The end result was to have 30 cops wasting their time for an hour and a half providing a private security force for the company.

Unite Union will be writing to the police and the company to demand that this use of physical force by police and security without good reason be stopped.

We have the right to protest under the bill of rights act and we will continue to do so. We will continue to picket stores from one end of New Zealand to the other. We will exercise our rights lawfully and we hope without further interference from the companies private security force – including those wearing a police uniform.

Check out video from the Auckland protest


High Court Judgement in December 2006 involving the arrest of Rochelle Rees for disorderly conduct for using a megaphone outside a store in an animal rights protest.

Justice Asher explained how the right to protest included making a noise and being “annoying” on occasion. In the case of Rochelle Rees vs NZ Police he wrote: 

“The fact that conduct causes annoyance to members of the community, and perhaps serious annoyance, is not enough in itself. Freedom to protest is a fundamental right in any democratic society, (Melser v Police, p 445 per McCarthy J). That right to protest can extend to making a loud and even annoying noise. This freedom was reiterated in the recent Court of Appeal decision R v Brooker [2004] NZAR 68, para [28]).

“It is not correct to say that in exercising the right to protest, a citizen has the duty not to annoy. It is permissible, within limits, for a citizen to annoy others while protesting. It is not enough that the conduct is irritating or ill mannered or in bad taste. Protestors often set out to cause irritation, to attract attention to their message. That is not in itself illegitimate, or a breach of the criminal law. There is a line beyond which protestors cannot cross without offending the criminal law, and that line involves annoyance beyond that which is normal and acceptable to New Zealanders. Loud protests through a megaphone are not uncommon in New Zealand streets. It is a method of protest that is often used. It is not a breach of our criminal law in itself to use such a method of protest. It is not a breach of our criminal law to annoy others while doing so.

“There being no evidence from the Police that serious annoyance had been caused to any member of the community from the actions of Ms Rees. the threshold beyond which the criminal law intervenes was not crossed. This was not disorderly behaviour.”

Cops used as McDonald’s private security guards says Unite Union

1 May

Unite Union is accusing the police of allowing themselves to be used at private security guards by the fast food giant McDonald’s NZ.

About 20 police were used to move a peaceful union picket away from the entrance to a McDonald’s restaurant in Queen Street in Auckland on May 1.

Union members were picketing the store to protest the breakdown in negotiations over their collective agreement. After about an hour two paddy wagons turned up and forcibly shoved picketers aside.

Unite national Director Mike Treen who was at the picket said at no time did the police say what was legally wrong with the picket.

“We were making plenty of noise” said Mr Treen, “but at no time were customers physically stopped from entering or leaving the store.” Continue reading

Fast food employers to use minimum wage rise to restrict wage increase for workers

26 Feb

“Fast food employers will use the miserly 25 cent rise in the minimum wage to restrict thepay increases for thousands of workers” said Unite Union National Director Mike Treen.

“Over the next few weeks we will be beginning negotiations for workers in McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Burger King. These companies have about 20,000 employees and in the past they have been very reluctant to pay above what they are legally required to.

Mike Treen on port workers picket line

“Some companies like Burger King still have the big majority of their workforce on the minimum wage despite some of them working for the company for a decade or more. All of them use the minimum wage as the entry rate.

‘We will be fighting for steps to get all workers off the minimum wage as quickly as possible and able to progress to a livable wage. In addition workers need much better security of hours with most fast food companies refusing to guarantee hours despite years of service.”

Mike Treen

National Director
Unite Union
09 8452132 ext 20
029 5254744

%d bloggers like this: