Restaurant Brands threatens employees to undermine union agreement and won’t answer question on use of wage subsidy

Restaurant Brands threatens employees to undermine union agreement and won’t answer question on use of wage subsidy

Having received nearly $22 million in taxpayer wage subsidies, Restaurant Brands Ltd is has been threatening KFC, Pizza Hut and Carl’s Jr workers that they will not be able to return to work if they don’t sign away job security and won’t answer how  they are using the wage subsidy to cut pay as employees return to work.

They have threatened workers with re-structuring, redundancy and not being allowed return to work if they don’t sign the variation to their agreement. Store managers were asked to prepare rosters for the week that excluded those who have not signed, although RBL now appears to have backed down on that threat. 

There is much general fear and concern in the community about jobs and RBL appears to be leveraging that to cut pay and conditions when there is no need to do so.

We told RBL their proposal was not acceptable but they sent it out to all our members individually. We advised our members not to sign, because it is unfair, unnecessary and collective agreements cannot be varied this way.

Their proposal  (view here) contains a clause that would allow RBL to change any of the arrangements at its “discretion” for as long as “Covid19 business disruption” continues. Union members are not going to sign away hard won rights to job security, especially when there is no justification provided. The proposal also claims to be a re-structuring/redundancy proposal as well, which is extraordinary as it contains no details of what the actual re-structuring or redundancies are. In reality this was intended simply to intimidate workers into signing.

Unite counter-proposed a variation (view here)  that met all the specific issues RBL raised - workers could be recalled to shifts if they were being paid their contracted hours and could be assigned to nearby stores if their own stores couldn’t open. We also said we would put an agreed document to members to vote on before Tuesday - because that is the legal process for varying a union collective agreement. 

This morning the CEO Arif Khan replied saying they were too busy to consider our proposal and they would get back to us in a few weeks. This itself is a clear breach of their good faith obligations under employment law.

They haven’t given any good reason why threatened re-structures or redundancies would be needed. RBL is not in any financial difficulty and have received nearly $22 million from taxpayers. Their share price has been steadily increasing because investors are picking that they will do very well as New Zealand comes out of lockdown (see https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12325862 ). Many of their competitors, especially smaller fast foods takeaway shops, will not be able to open under Level 3.

There is also a huge unanswered question about their use of the wage subsidy. Many workers will actually end up with a substantial reduction in pay for returning to work .

RBL has been hiring many new workers with just two guaranteed shifts, but getting them to work many more week after week. Under lockdown they were paid the average of what they actually had been working, but now RBL wants them to return to work and only pay them their contracted hours - the two shifts. Many will get a 50% pay cut for going back to work. We know it is going to be a problem because over the 2018-19 New Year period they paid only contracted hours for a couple of weeks due to payroll processing problems. It caused chaos and extreme hardship in many cases.

McDonalds have made sure that no worker will get paid less after returning to work under Level 3 - that is what RBL should do as well.

The big question, however, is have RBL received full-time subsidy payments (20 hours a week or more) for workers who they are now planning to pay only part-time (less than 20 hours a week)? We have asked this very simple question repeatedly but they have not answered. 

Why is that?