Defend workers, migrant, and union rights against Burger King

August 30, 2012

By writers for The Spark

Over the last month Unite Union has put the fast-food giant Burger King under the spotlight for exploitation and attempted union busting. The union is engaging in street actions, intensified industrial organising, and legal action until the company adheres to the law and industry standards.

Burger King was the last of the fast-food giants to sign a union deal after the SuperSizeMyPay campaign which took place in 2005-2006. In the years since then Burger King has kept paying below standard industry rates of pay paid by comparable companies. Conditions of work also lagged. For example, other companies agreed to 3-hour minimum shifts in 2006 but it wasn’t till years later that Burger King agreed to 2.5 hour minimum shifts.

Burger King has remained as the fast-food company paying the lowest wages. For those employed at KFC the union has negotiated for staff to move to 0.96 cents above minimum wage once the first level of training is completed. In McDonald’s the staff get 0.50 cents above minimum after basic training, and in Wendy’s most staff are able to get 0.50 cents above minimum wage after six months service. These increases are attained quite quickly by most employees. However, Burger King does not agree to relativity clauses and there are instances where staff who have been employed for ten years still struggle on minimum wage. The difference is even greater in relation to higher-graded work. In KFC the line supervisor rate has been negotiated up to $19.68, however the highest union rate at Burger King is well below that with product/service coordinators beings paid $14.25. Read the rest of this entry »

Rest home workers strike

August 4, 2012

“When someone works for less pay than she can live on when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”

– Barbara Ehrenreich

It’s an indictment on our economic system that some of the most socially valuable work is also the lowest paid. Last month 70 members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota (SFWU) employed at Aranui Home and Hospital took three days of industrial action. The majority of Aranui rest home care staff are paid the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour and over the past 11 years have only had pay increases when required by law. The workers have been in negotiations with their employer since last October.

“The Human Rights Commission’s recently released report exposed the crisis of modern day slavery occurring in residential aged care.” Said NZNO Industrial Advisor Rob Haultain. “Aranui is a very good example of this slavery. These workers are shown little respect for the complex work they do or the fact that they are the core of the employer’s business.”

“If slavery means working hard in difficult situations with challenging residents for the minimum wage then there is no question that these workers face this experience daily.”

Aranui owner Ashton Parker has interests in early childhood facilities, gynaecology services as well as residential aged care. All of those sectors receive significant state funding. In times of austerity those services are cut back or allowed to stagnate such as with this years “zero budget”. The struggle of carers at Aranui is wider than just one employer or industry, but relates to the wider situation New Zealand finds itself in four years into the great recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Byron Clark

Solidarity with Coles workers (Australia)

July 23, 2012

Resistance comrades in Adelaide support Melbourne Coles Workers.

More information on Coles dispute:

Class struggle today: Ports of Auckland & AFFCO disputes

July 7, 2012

Mike Kay

In the first half of 2012 we have seen the bosses attack New Zealand workers in some of their strongest bastions: the Ports of Auckland and the freezing works. In this talk I want to focus on a single aspect of both disputes, namely, the role of iwi in assisting the workers.

This was most pronounced in the Talley’s/ AFFCO dispute, where up to 90% of the union membership is Māori. Also, quite crucially, 40% of beef production at AFFCO comes from Māori trusts. Talley’s must have perceived the defeat suffered by unionists at ANZCO/ CMP in Martin last year as a signal that they too could finish off the union in their plants. After a mere ten hours at the negotiating table Talley’s locked out hundreds of workers who refused to sign Individual Employment Agreements that gave away terms and conditions that had been built up over years.

Now it’s no secret that the leadership of Meat Workers Union struggled to organise the dispute. After 20 years without a major “blue”, they were caught on the hop by Talley’s full frontal assault. They turned to the CTU for help. But it was the involvement of the CTU’s Māori representative body, the Rūnanga, and its Vice President Māori Syd Keepa in particular, that were decisive in turning around the fortunes of the meatworkers. Read the rest of this entry »

Victory for Southern Paprika workers

June 24, 2012

Back in October last year, The Spark carried an article highlighting the struggle of I-Kiribati horticulture workers in Warkworth against redundancies. Since then, their site delegate, Botau Retire, was sacked by the employer, Southern Paprika, in January. He has just won reinstatement with 11 weeks’ pay plus $4500 compensation at the Employment Relations Authority.

In July 2011 Botau investigated an incident of a racist text message on a company phone. According to the sworn evidence of a former Cadet Manager, the text read: “The best Christmas present I ever had was a nigger hanging from a tree.” No-one was punished for the text, but Botau was given a warning for “threatening or abusive behaviour”. The Authority Member, Robin Arthur found that Botau’s warning was “not proportionate or soundly based on evidence”.

The dismissal was a result of a dispute between Botau and the Company who wanted to prevent him attending a mediation session with another union member because they said he hadn’t given them sufficient notice. Botau said that he felt it was his duty as a delegate to assist his fellow unionist and act as an interpreter. Mr Arthur found the dismissal unjustified and ordered reinstatement.

Very few successful cases of unjustified dismissal result in reinstatement - last year, the government changed the law so that it was no longer the primary remedy. But Mr Arthur cited a 1994 Employment Court statement that: “to award routinely compensation for the job loss instead of reinstating is to create a system for licensing unjustifiable dismissals.” That guidance was given under the Employment Contracts Act 1991, which also did not have reinstatement as the primary remedy.

Hopefully this determination will encourage more workers to fight to get their jobs back, rather than just accepting monetary compensation.

For more information:

Industrial news

May 27, 2012

International support for Tally’s AFFCO workers

Global support for the struggle of meat workers at Tally’s owned AFFCO plants is grew when the International Union of Food Workers passed a resolution of support and solidarity from their Geneva Congress last month. A resolution supported the workers has also been passed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). 450 workers were locked out and a further 700 are engaged in strike action in a dispute lasting the better part of three months.

Eight migrant workers detained in northland

After a joint operation with the police Immigration New Zealand has detained eight migrant workers; seven Thai nationals and one Malaysian. The workers came to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme but were allegedly working in breach of their visas. While their former New Zealand employers could face fines up to $50,000 the workers themselves will likely be deported.

Employment law changes announced

The government has announced changes to the Employment Relations Act which will mean that employers are not required to conclude a collective agreement, and will be able to opt out of multi-employer bargaining. A provision that sees new employees covered by a collective agreement for the first 30 days of their employment will also be removed. The changes have been roundly criticised by the union movement.

55 manufacturing jobs go in Auckland

55 jobs are gone with the closure of Auckland based tube and wire products manufacturer, Wire by Design. The company had been embroiled in a three year long legal wrangle with Transit New Zealand over a compensation claim for the relocation of its factory following Transit’s building of the Onehunga motorway extension. During that time Wire by Design had fallen behind with his tax payments to Inland Revenue and went into voluntary liquation. The EMPU which covered workers at the business says that the government is at fault as the job losses have resulted from government mismanagement.

Foreign charter vessels banned

In a surprise move the government has banned foreign charter vessels from fishing in New Zealand waters. It has legislated a ban that will be transitioned over the next four years. Last year all 32 Indonesian crew on the Korean owned Oyang 75 walked off the fishing vessel in Lyttelton alleging sexual and physical abuse. The Oyang 70, owned by the same company, had earlier sunk claiming the lives of 6 fishermen. Labour conditions in some instances are akin to slavery on some vessels. Allegations of illegal fish dumping have also been made against foreign charter vessels.

Iwi step in to break Talleys-AFFCO meatworks lock-out

May 26, 2012

Byron Clark

After more than three months of hardship for over 5000 people the Talleys-AFFCO lockout has been brought to an end through pressure by iwi leaders. Sections of the trade union movement and key individuals within it were able to generate support from a majority of iwi leaders in the impacted areas where the workforces were often than 70 percent Maori.

The chairman of Waikato-Tainui executive Te Arataura, Tom Roa told Radio New Zealand last month that there was a consensus among iwi leaders to put pressure on AFFCO and its owners, the Talley family, to end the three month long industrial dispute which is having a huge effect on Maori communities. This followed similar comments from Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau, who suggested farmers from his and other iwi should stop supplying animals to AFFCO unless the dispute is settled.

The union movement has been grateful for the support. Laurie Nankivell, a Shed Secretary for the Meat Workers Union said on Triangle TV’s The Union Report “it’s a huge bonus for us up North ‘cause we all know Sonny Tau up North, he worked with us in the freezing works in the ’80s- ’70s and ’80s, it was good to see him on our picket line.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Embassy Theatre workers on strike

May 17, 2012

MUNZ delegate: “Class war on the waterfront”

May 3, 2012

Day 1 of a 21-day strike

This article was written for The Spark by Michael Will who is a waterside worker and delegate for the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ).

The Unions of this country are being attacked at the moment, our freedom and rights as workers and human beings are being eroded by attacks by employers and the government.

No labour dispute has been played out in the media as much as the recent struggle between the Maritime Union of New Zealand and Ports of Auckland Ltd. The Maritime Union represents a number of workers involved in the wharf and Shipping industry. These workers have endured a lot of attacks in their history- notably the famous 1951 lockout where laws were passed to make it illegal to feed locked out workers and publish material to get the message to the Public.

The Ports of Auckland dispute began when bargaining failed to reach an agreement, as the Auckland City Council had demanded an increase in their dividend from 6% to 12% over the next five years. Considering that all other publicly owned Ports in the Australasian area operate at around 6% this was an unfair and unrealistic demand. The wharfies had offered to take a lower increase in wages for the retention of job security, and a roster system that gave them a balance between work and family life. CEO Tony Gibson has famously stated that “Unions need to realistic, family life just isn’t financially competitive”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Hikoi and meatworkers solidarity

April 29, 2012

The hikoi is showing that tangata whenua are in the forefront of the struggle against asset sales and privatisation. One aspect of the hikoi is the unity between the locked-out meatworkers (employed by Talleys-AFFCO) and others who are opposed to asset-sales and privatisation. This was apparent in the north, where workers employed at the Moerewa plant joined in large numbers. Then again in the Waikato workers from the Horotiu plant have played an important role and received support and acknowledgement from the hikoi. The Talleys-AFFCO workers are now in the ninth week of the lockout.


29/04/12 MWU members rallying


28/04/12 Frankton market the day before the hikoi got to Hamilton. Our mate from a locked-out family, Gareth from Mighty River People’s Power (and MANA), and Becky Broad, Workers Party national organiser (and MANA).


29/04/12 Collecting the koha.


29/04/12 Meatworkers presence at Garden Place, Hamilton.


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