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.