Today’s announcement of an income relief payment goes in the right direction, but leaves behind those that most need help right now.
“Unite Union welcomes extra support for some redundant workers. Hundreds of our members will be better off, but hundreds more will still be facing desperate times” says Gerard Hehir, National Secretary of Unite Union.
The scheme announced today is more generous than current benefit levels, doesn’t penalise workers whose partner is still working and won’t impact student allowances and other income sources.
“These are all very good moves and long overdue, but why do those without jobs after 1st March get this support, while those without jobs before then get half as much, are effectively taxed at 70 cents in the dollar if they earn more and get nothing if their partner is working? Please explain?”
“If you were unemployed before 1st March your chances of getting a new job have plummeted along with everyone who lost their job after 1st March. If you are too sick to work apparently you only need half the income of someone who recently lost their job. Really?”
Unite Union members working in fast food restaurants across Aotearoa have submitted and published a list of expectations and recommendations for safe operating at Level 2 and beyond.
Based on their frontline perspective, workers developed a list of best practice policy and procedures that will contribute to our collective fight against COVID-19. Despite the law saying that employers must consult with their workers on changes to health and safety practice, there has been no consultation with workers since the start of lockdown.
Unite Union wants to know why the most desperate sectors in New Zealand have been ignored in the budget, and wants a new package of support released soon.
With unemployment set to explode as the government wage subsidy comes to an end, many workers who have never had to rely on a benefit are soon going to have to come to terms with a system that drives people deeper into poverty and debt.
A number of employers Unite deals with are already beginning redundancy processes with jobs set to be terminated as soon as the subsidy runs out. We are aware that other unions are reporting the same scenario.
By Mike Treen, Unite Union National Director
(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)
McDonald’s in New Zealand has signed a new three-year collective agreement with Unite Union after union members voted 97% in favour.
The agreement was concluded after the Covid-19 crisis had started enveloping the world and the Unite Union bargaining team decided to focus bargaining around getting as strong a guaranteed hours clause as possible.
The new agreement provides for guaranteed hours for all staff but even more importantly it has an enforceable mechanism to improve hours over time if a worker wants that to happen.
Two weeks after Unite Union told Fast Food companies what they needed to do under level 3 to keep their workers and customers safe, some are finally making improvements, but there is still much more to be done.
McDonalds are introducing changes over the next week which will lead to true “contactless” service, with effective barriers in place where 2 metre distancing is not possible.
“Of course, it will be two weeks too late, with hundreds of thousands of customers served in clear breach of Level 3 social distancing. We will soon find out how much damage was done to the progress made against Covid19 under Level 4.” said Unite Union National Secretary Gerard Hehir.
“It has been proven and accepted around the world that one of the most effective ways to create, implement and enforce effective workplace health and safety is by involving employees from the very start. It’s also a legal requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act. For the move to Level 3 this was almost a complete fail - for employers and for the government.”
Unite rejects the claim that the problems were just ‘teething’ problems. Fast Food workers are still reporting many issues on a daily basis, especially with regard to social distancing, between workers and with customers. McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King are still breaching alert level 3 requirements with every single drive through order.
“The one metre rule between workers is still being regularly breached. Of course this is happening inside closed restaurants so we don’t see photos in the media like we did last Tuesday outside McDonalds and Burger Fuel. Workers are not allowed to have their phones with them while working and can be threatened with disciplinary action if they do. Workers have told us they are scared of repercussions if they use their phones to gather evidence.Read more
Reprinted from Stuff, May 3, 2020
OPINION: If the New Zealand of May 2020 were a dystopian movie franchise or possibly an afternoon at the Colosseum in ancient Rome, we’d have worked out by now who the disposable ones are.
Every fast food worker who needs their job, but equally does not want to become a Covid-19 statistic, might be wondering what price their health is this week, and come to this unhappy conclusion — it’s a figure that falls somewhere below the cost of a Whopper meal or a 20 pack of nuggets.
Fast food workers are not known for speaking out in the national media. It’s not worth their jobs, which in very recent history could be cut to zero hours, and are still some of the most casualised and unstable in the country, to be rocking the boat with their employers.Read more
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.Read more
Unite union has sent a list of unresolved health and safety issues to Fast Food employers ahead of fast food drive-throughs being reopened next week and are warning customers to expect delays in service.
Unite members had a brief experience with Level 3 just before the lockdown and there were many concerns that have not yet been dealt with.
“It's not an exaggeration to say that many fast food workers are genuinely in fear for their health and safety next week.”
Drive-through cannot be the same
"The major concern is the high number of interactions with the public and whether the necessary changes can be made to drive-through services to make them contact-less. There is no way that the standard drive through service meets level 3 requirements. The two metre rule has to apply to customers and there is simply no way food, change and receipts can be handed directly to customers in cars and the two metre distance be maintained. The basic processes have to change and physical barriers must be in place at all times.”Read more
"The lockdown may have been the final straw but the responsibility for the Burger King receivership lies squarely with it’s current owners - the Blackstone Group. They are the largest private equity firm in the world and have been interested in one thing - how much cash they could extract form the business each and every year.”
To help workers who have seen their pay cut to 80% and whose employer has applied for the wage subsidy Unite Union has developed an online calculator at https://info.unite.org.nz/covid-calculator. With just the average weekly income and regular weekly hours a worker should be able to calculate what gross pay (before tax and other deductions) they should receive.