An opinion piece from Unite Union Executive member Melissa Goodman
A well deserved fist pump broke the air at a recent meeting of Unite union's executive delegates when it was announced that Salaried Managers will join hourly paid crew in negotiating for decent pay and working conditions for the first time ever as part of this year's contract negotiations.
I am a participating member of Unite union's executive, as the elected delegate for Burger King - most recently working as a Shift Supervisor and Assistant Store Manager. As such, I understand first hand that Burger King employees experience some of the lowest pay in the large corporate fast food industry in New Zealand.
Since the union was established just over a decade ago, Unite has represented workers at Burger King with fierce gusto. However, the collective agreement between Antares Restaurants Group Limited (trading as Burger King NZ) and Unite has always been limited to those workers on an hourly wage; excluding those on salaries.
At the same time, a number of supervisor workers are resisting a current push from upper management to move from their current hourly rate to a salaried rate. Although it may be presumed that moving to a salary contract may provide wage security, this move for many already has resulted in: a pathetic hourly pay rate for those expected to work long extended weekly hours and the undercutting of hourly paid workers who are already struggling with no chance of overtime pay. Supervisors are all too aware that the expectation to work long hours and cover for company managed under-staffing is a daily occurrence. For those moving to a salaried rate the chance of being paid a decent wage for the ACTUAL TIME they work is revoked.
Many salaried managers and supervisors are already being paid well below, the already low, market rate; even less if their actual time worked is taken into account. One of Unite's organisers recently came across a manager managing an entire Burger King restaurant on just $16.04 per hour, or perhaps less if you factor in the amount of hours they were expected to work each week.
Burger King and Wendy's are falling way behind in regards to wages when compared to similar fast food outlets. The vast majority of CREW members with no management qualifications or experience at KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Carl's Jr and Starbucks are paid more than this!
To make it worse, Burger King NZ includes the employer's Kiwisaver contribution as part of the salary when advertising and offering salaried positions.
The salary is effectively used to undercut wages, give a false sense of promotion and move workers off the collective agreement and onto individual contracts without a way to collectively negotiate. Less pay for more work, more responsibilities, less flexibility in your working arrangements and a whole lot more stress! Burger King NZ are maintaining their position, destitute of vision, to remain the lowest of the low - a change is desperately needed.
BUT NOW, these diligent, conscientious, tireless and earnest salaried workers will have a chance to collectively push for a decent wage in the first ever collective agreement that includes Burger King's salaried workers in New Zealand. This move from Unite will have a profound impact on Burger King employees because ALL workers need protection from the tirade of unethical practices that feed down to all levels of the corporate hierarchy.
Negotiations between Unite and Antares Restaurant Group Ltd are due to commence in August.