Pizza Hut workers in Dunedin have battled for their rights against the bosses and won.
Dunedin’s two Pizza Hut stores were recently sold to new bosses. Upon taking ownership of the stores, the new bosses tried to force all the workers to sign new, individual contracts with inferior terms and conditions and a 90 day fire at will probationary period. This would be laughable if it wasn’t so outrageous - at the North D store the workers have been there for between two and eight years, and without a doubt know the job much better than their new employers!
What the manager clearly didn’t take into account was that these workers are union members. Both sites are Unite Union strongholds - the workers are staunch, aware of their rights, and aware of both the need to fight back and the power they have when they do so. All the workers refused to sign the new contracts, and today they walked off the job in protest.
Word went out to other trade unions, activists and community groups, and a picket was called for 4pm. Everyone was ready to go, ready to get out there for as long as it took to defeat this attack and defend the rights of Pizza Hut workers, but as it turned out the fight we were expecting never came. The bosses caved in, and early in the afternoon they made contact with the union and offered to sign a revised contract.
This contract won a 3% pay increase for all the workers inside the shop, which will hopefully make life a bit easier on the next trip to the supermarket. The 90 day fire at will clause was dropped entirely. And most significantly of all, a $1 pay increase was won for all the delivery drivers, amounting to almost a 20% pay increase! This is a major victory, because Pizza Hut insists on classifying its drivers as ‘independent contractors’ rather than employees, which makes it illegal for them to join Unite Union and be a part of a collective contract. The drivers are paid just $5 per delivery, and often have to wait for hours between deliveries, leaving them with a constantly changing and constantly low take home pay. For them to win a pay increase through union action is a landmark victory that hopefully sets a precedent for Pizza Huts around New Zealand.
This is the second victory Dunedin Unite members have won in recent weeks. Julie Tyler was threatened with dismissal for pointing out on Facebook that Burger King workers are “overworked and underpaid”, a threat that was defeated after a publicity campaign was launched in her defence by union supporters and a picket line was set up outside her store. Word is spreading around Dunedin and the employers had better start listening - don’t mess with Unite members. They don’t know how to roll over, but they do know how to put up a bloody good fight.