The lockdown and workers - update from Unite Union

Kia ora Unite members,

Union literally means together (as does "Unite") and that is the only way we are all going to get through this crisis. Just because we can't meet face to face doesn't mean we can't stick together and look after each other.

We have, as you might expect, been inundated with queries and requests for advice and assistance. Unite organisers and support staff are all working their normal hours at this stage but, obviously, will be working from home. Organisers have always been set up to work remotely and our support staff have made arrangements to make sure we can continue as normally as possible for as long as possible.

Our union and organisers contact details are here. If you leave us a message please make sure you include your name, where you work normally, a contact phone number (mobile phone preferred) and how urgently you need help. We can't promise to have answers to all your questions about work and pay but we will do our best to answer or help in whatever way we can.



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Lockdown Was Necessary And Now Guaranteed Income Support And Protections Are Vital

Unite union fully supports the government’s move to a lockdown.

“We had so many emails, calls and messages from members genuinely fearful for their health and that of their families if they were forced to keep going to work” said National Secretary Gerard Hehir.

The union has had many reports, including photos and videos, of preventative measures that were supposed to be in place not being adhered to or the extra resources to achieve them not being provided.


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Pizza Delivery is NOT an essential service

Unite Union today called for Pizza shops, other takeaways and non-essential retailers to be told they need to close.

Dominoes have announced they will remain open delivery and have even turned the announcement into a publicity stunt, offering free pizza to the elderly. We are hearing reports that Hell Pizzas intend to continue operating and staff told they must show up to work.

There will be marginal calls as to what is “essential”. This is not one of them.

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The Hospitality industry's sick secret

sick_cook.pngDenial of basic sick leave rights to hospitality workers is a now a major threat to the whole country according to Unite Union.

Unite has written to all employers it deals with to ask what plans they have to minimise risk to their employees and urging them to extend paid sick leave if employees have to stay away from work because of the covid-19 virus.

“We are very worried that workers will be directly forced, or have no choice but, to come into work even if they are sick” says Unite National Secretary Gerard Hehir.

“These are the people making your burgers and fries, cleaning your hotel room and filling up your bucket of popcorn to eat at the movies. No number of signs about hand washing, policies and tick boxes are going to protect customers and other employees if workers are coughing and sneezing while they prepare food and clean.”

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The migrant worker crisis is Government-induced and will intensify exploitation

By Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

The government has announced a series of changes that will only intensify the crisis around migrant worker exploitation.

The government has allowed a significant reduction in approvals for permanent residency from the long-term guidance number of around 45,000 annually to only 35,000.
At the same time, there has been a continuing boost to the number of people allowed to come and work on temporary work (170,000) or student visas (100,000) to over 270,000 a year with a similar number here at any one time. This is up 50% on numbers just a decade ago.
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NZ Labour News, January 2020

As we kick off 2020 and a new year of hope for New Zealand's working families, many are still struggling for the most basic of rights and security.

Living Wage Banner New Zealand. FIRST Union

A living wage banner hangs in Manukau Westfield Shopping Centre (FIRST Union)

Cotton On Blindsides Workers

Multinational chain Cotton On abruptly closed two stores in Porirua's North City Shopping Centre, which were given only days notice of the closing of their workplaces, and are now boarded up and inaccessible. The closure of Cotton On Kids is expected to follow.
While some staff have been offered redeployment within a 30km radius, they are unsure of what redundancy will be available to them, or when they would begin new roles. 
"This was short-notice, impulsive, solely profit-focused and insensitive to long-serving staff," said organiser Richie Morris, who works for FIRST Union, which represents the workers.
Cotton On workers have been calling for a living wage for over a year, but the company has not returned to the bargaining table for the last four months.
Last month retail workers demonstrated outside the company's busiest stores across the country, calling for a living wage and wearing t-shirts saying, "Cotton H(on)est - Living Wage."  Distribution centre staff have also carried out full or partial strike actions, after exhausting other cooperative avenues.
"Let's be clear -- Cotton On are the largest global retailer in Australia, and they turned over more than $2 billion AUD in the last financial year. They have a workforce of 22,000 people across 18 countries, and every day they choose not to pay them a fair wage." said FIRST Union Secretary Tali Williams.
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KFC worker threatened with sack over sexual harassment post on Facebook

Nick Batistich, 22, was called to a disciplinary meeting on the last working day before Christmas and told he faced possible dismissal for a Facebook post which was heavily critical of KFC's parent company, Restaurant Brands.

The company has been embroiled in controversy over sexual assault and harassment by managers, since multiple workers at its KFC and Pizza Hut stores went public in December with a range of complaints. 

They included a woman who was raped three times by her manager

Last week, wage theft and doctoring timesheets at a Christchurch KFC outlet were added to the list of claims from workers at KFC and Pizza Hut stores nationwide.

Nick Batistich, 22, was called to a disciplinary meeting just before Christmas and told he faced possible dismissal for a Facebook post which was heavily critical of KFC's parent company, Restaurant Brands.
David White/Stuff
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KFC staffer accused of sexual harassment promoted to general manager


Staff at the KFC store in Christchurch say the worker was made general manager despite formal complaints pending from five workers, some of which were lodged five months ago and have not yet been answered. Three more complaints were laid against the same manager this month.

Unite Union, which has 4000 fast food workers among its members, is calling for an independent investigation and for the manager to be suspended while it takes place.

The claims are the latest in an ongoing harassment controversy for KFC's parent company Restaurant Brands.


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Chinese construction workers being deported

By Mike Treen, National Director, Unite Union

This week I have learnt that at least four Chinese construction workers who came to New Zealand under false pretenses in mid-2018 are being refused an extension of their visas.

These workers were part of a broader group we have represented over the past year who did everything that was asked of them by Immigration NZ when that government agency wanted their help to investigate possible fraud.

These workers had spent $40,000 in agency fees in China to get the job offer and visa originally. They were lied to about what they would earn and how long they could stay. It is simply impossible to earn enough in New Zealand with the one or two-year visas they were given to pay that investment off and then save some more.



Promises made to workers have not been kept by the Immigration Minister

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Dozens claim sexual harassment, assault at Restaurant Brands fast food stores


Half of all Restaurant Brand workers who responded to a survey said they'd been personally affected or witness to sexual harassment at work.

The Unite union poll was inspired by a Stuff #metooNZ investigation into rape, assaults and harassment of KFC and Pizza Hut workers around the country, and was sent out to 9000 current and former union-affiliated Restaurant Brands workers the following day.

In one instance, a respondent reported having to force her way out of a food freezer after her supervisor trapped and tried to kiss her. The woman was six months pregnant at the time.

Another woman said she and other workers were repeatedly groped by her manager at Pizza Hut, who also refused her sick leave when she miscarried. She said she was ignored when she reported the assaults to management at Restaurant Brands' Auckland headquarters.

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