Low-paid workers strike and protest at multiple stores

Strike at Hamilton, New Zealand, McDonald's in October '08

In Auckland and Hamilton low-paid workers at McDonald's and the Farmers department store are striking and protesting for better pay and working conditions.

The strikes started on September 19th with workers working out of Otara McDonald's, to be accompanied on the picket line by a giant inflatable rat. October 3 saw staff at six different McDonald's walk out, five in Auckland and one in Hamilton. The striking workers at the Auckland Airport McDonald's travelled into the city to support strikers at two other stores, while when the Hamilton strikers left their store, only mangers who were specially brought in from Auckland, 130km away, were left running the store. During these strikes, which lasted for several hours or longer, many customers left without food rather than cross the picket lines.

The strikes are part of a campaign by the Unite union aimed at raising wages and ending the bullying of staff. Currently, staff have no guaranteed hours in their contract, and owners are known to use the shift roster as a means of bullying and controlling unionised staff, amongst others. In September, a Unite member and former Kaiapoi McDonald’s worker was awarded NZ$15,000 (US$9700) after she had her hours cut and was bullied into resignation after joining the union.

Negotiations for a new contract have stalled since they began in March. Unite plans to keep the strikes going until McDonald's accept their demands.

For images from the McDonald's strikes, click here. Some information about Unite's previous campaign for improved rights and conditions at fast food stores, see Super Size My Pay - Fast food workers in New Zealand organise for better pay and conditions, 2005-6.

Meanwhile, October 6th, workers at the Farmers department store walked out after being offered what they described as an "insulting pay rise". The workers, members of the National Distribution Union, were offered between nothing and 60 cents, with most offered a 20 cent rise on their $13.50 an hour wage (the minimum wage is $12). Workers are seeking $15 an hour. After picketing the store, workers hopped on a union bus and took a drive to the wealthy suburb of Remuera, where the owners of Farmers (worth over NZ$300 million) live. They proceeded to put leaflets in letterboxes all over the neighbourhood and even knocked on the owners door to try to start a discussion - unfortunately, nobody was home.

Comments

Anarchia
Oct 7 2008 03:18
Quote:
Airport's Arrest Threats Against Workers Wont Fly
Tuesday, 7 October 2008, 10:51 am
Press Release: Unite Union

Airport's arrest threats against McDonald’s workers won’t fly with Union

Union members from all five McDonald’s restaurants located at Auckland Airport will be on strike from midday to demand pay parity with union workers at KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut.

“However these workers have more than their boss to face-off with today. They are prepared to protest on airport property even if it means facing arrest,” said Unite Union Secretary Matt McCarten.

A strike by young union members last Friday at the Airport was hounded and harassed by security staff and police. Security guards and police physically threatened the workers and issued a trespass notice against their organiser, despite their entirely peaceful action.

“It is absolutely disgraceful that the Auckland and Manukau City Council owned Airport thinks it is fine to threaten people for protesting on public property. Their threats won’t fly with our union and we will be back on Airport property today and prepared to get arrested if need be,” continued Mr. McCarten.

“The conflict between McDonald’s and the more than 1000 Unite Union members has now entered its third week and we have zero tolerance for these sorts of bullying tactics. If protesting for a living wage and fair conditions of work at the world’s biggest fast food company involves getting arrested then that’s what we will have to do,” said Mr McCarten

“Everyday Auckland Airport relies on our poorly paid union members to cook for and clean up after thousands upon thousands of hungry travelers. But until a living wage is won at McDonald’s restaurants the sounds of protest will be heard amongst the roar of jets at Auckland Airport,” concluded Mr. McCarten

ends

Steven.
Oct 8 2008 14:45

Thanks for all the updates!

Steven.
Oct 10 2008 17:00