Meeting to discuss plight of people on work and student visas – Monday 6pm

Meeting, 6pm, Monday, May 1, Unitarian Church, 1a Ponsonby Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland City.

Hi all,

The government changes to the immigration rules are creating a great deal of misery for many workers and students in this country from overseas who have come under different rules and have had their hopes and dreams for the future dashed.


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April 28: Workers Memorial Day - events around the country

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, a day we remember those who have been killed at work. 

This is a particularly apt moment to mark this occasion given that seven people have died in workplace accidents in the past fortnight.

Here is a list of at least some of the events planned for around the country.

Attached is some more detail, by region and industry, of workplace deaths.


Silent vigil at Parliament by Pike River families concerned at workplace deaths, July 2015

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Strike Action: why it works and what your rights are

KFC_picket_on_strike_small.pngStrike Action!..

Why is it So Awesome?


Imagine you’re that person at your at who ends up doing all the dishes ALL the time! But no one really notices it or  appreciates it!

By stopping doing the dishes you show your lazy at mates that it’s not a magical fairy that cleans them all over night... it’s YOU! This is strike action.

 When you work for Restaurant Brands you make the company heaps of $$$ but you don’t see much of it. The made $26 million in profit last year and paid the CEO a $1 million bonus recently.  By stopping work for a while you remind RBL who really makes the company so profitable ... YOU!

Click here for more info on why we are striking.

You won’t be paid for the time you are on strike but you’re doing it to make a point. And it’s worth it remember? A lot of the pay and conditions you have now were won by workers taking strike action in the past.

It is legal to take strike action when you are in a union and bargaining for better pay. And it’s normal to feel a bit apprehensive the first time but like anything, you’ll get the hang of it!  Strike action is about making people appreciate what you do!

Who can participate in a strike?

All union members who are covered by the Collective Bargaining are entitled to strike.  This time it includes both waged and salaried members of Unite. If you are not a union member join! Or you will need to work as normal.


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KFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr and Starbucks workers to strike tomorrow

KFC_worker_on_loudhailer.jpgKFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr and Starbucks workers will strike tomorrow after negotiations broke down over a new collective agreement.

“Yesterday Restaurant Brands announced  profits of $26 million and they have paid their CEO a million dollar bonus. Tomorrow the workers who actually make and sell their products have to go on strike to get a few cents above the minimum wage” said Unite National Secretary Gerard Hehir. 

“This is a stark example of the growing gap between rich and poor and Unite Union members at Restaurant Brands are taking action to close the gap a little bit. While Restaurant Brands have been paying huge bonuses and dividends and buying up large overseas, their workers are overworked and underpaid"

Restaurant Brands has rejected a very modest proposal from the union for a rise of 10 cents and hour each year over three years above the minimum wage movement for the lowest paid workers. This will take to take their pay to 30 cents an hour above the minimum wage by 2019. 

The union also wants Shift Supervisors, skilled and experienced staff who are able to run stores on their own, to get increases over three years that will move them towards a Living Wage. 

“These are not school kids. They are qualified and experienced workers who can run a store on their own: managing staff, managing a retail store and a food production facility. They deserve a Living Wage and Restaurant Brands can afford to pay them a Living Wage”


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Labour Letter April 2017

Enclosed is the latest edition of your New Zealand Labour Letter. The online publication of the New Zealand Labour Letter is provided as a service to Labour by AIL of New Zealand Ltd

National Labour News

More than 95 per cent of 1433 IDEA Services support workers voted to walk off the job in protest of stagnant pay talks. E tū union has been negotiating with IDEA Services, the operational arm of IHC New Zealand, for two new collective employment agreements since October last year. The strike vote was prompted by a March 23rd announcement of planned service cuts by IDEA Services that would affect about five per cent of the disability support staff. E tū advocate Alastair Duncan said IDEA Services needs "to take this vote seriously" as it showed growing anxiety and concern amongst staff. "Support workers at IDEA do a caring and professional job of supporting New Zealanders with intellectual disabilities. Sadly, they have had little support from their employer," Duncan said.

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Fast food companies seem to want a fight – Unite says bring it on

westiesFast food companies are trying to wriggle out of legal and contractual obligations around basic rights of workers to guaranteed hours and annual leave.

Unite Union has started bargaining with McDonald’s and Restaurant Brands over the renewal of their respective collective agreements.

McDonald’s has refused to make an offer around pay until the results of a court case the union took against them this week are known. At the same time, they are giving all non-union staff a 60c an hour pay rise (ten cents above that mandated by the legal minimum wage increase) but not applying that increase to union members except if they are currently below the new minimum wage of $15.75 an hour (which they legally must pay)

Union members at McDonald’s voted overwhelmingly this week in favour of industrial action if necessary to move the company.

The court case against McDonald’s has become necessary to force the company to accept the meaning of the law change outlawing zero hour contracts. Companies were given until April 2016 to change the employment agreements for staff on Individual agreements to comply with the law. When Unite saw the new agreements we did not believe they met the requirements of the new law.

The ban on zero hour contracts followed a successful campaign against them by Unite in the fast food industry in the 2015 bargaining over the collective agreement. Until that year’s negotiations, the companies had been able to run a rostering regime without any guaranteed hours of work. By the end of that bargaining round all major fast food companies – McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands, Burger King and Wendy’s – agreed to bring in guaranteed hours.

There was huge public support for our campaign. It became obvious that tens of thousands of workers were in a similar situation. The government felt compelled to promise to outlaw the “worst aspects” of these contracts. However, they could not get a majority in parliament for their initial proposals and had to reach a deal with the opposition parties to get the law through. The compromise agreement went much further than they initially intended.

The new law said all employment agreements needed to include guaranteed hours. If workers were expected to be “available” for work they needed to be paid reasonable compensation for that “availability”. If there was no compensation paid then the worker had the right to refuse the work offered.

McDonald’s has tried to wriggle out of the legal responsibility by minimising the guaranteed hours being given. We had copies of around 100 staff who signed up with the company after the new law took effect in 2016 and then joined the union. Often the guaranteed hours were a few as three. On average, it was about 20% of the hours the staff were available to work.

McDonald’s offer of employment has a heading called “Availability” where workers list all the hours they can work in any week. They are encouraged to maximise their “availability” to get work. Some staff have 24-7 “availability”. But no compensation is being paid. The company argued that because the new agreements had the right to turn down work rostered in addition to their guaranteed hours this meant they did not need to pay for the availability.

The union argued that this was not the case. Even the guaranteed hours are being rostered within a workers “availability”. It doesn’t matter if they have the right to turn down additional work (which we don’t accept actually exists) because all the hours the worker must work are within an availability clause that must be compensated for. Otherwise, the intent of the new law could be easily subverted – as McDonald’s is in fact doing.

Because this is a new law and some of the language lacks clarity, this case is being seen as a test case that will help determine the true meaning of the law for many workers. A full bench of three judges in the Employment Court heard the case and we hope for a decision with the next few months.

Unite has also written to the company saying we consider that their decision to not pay union members the same as non-union staff will undermine the collective bargaining and the union’s role in it and is also contrary to Section 9 of the Employment Relations Act which prohibits preferential treatment to non-members. The situation is made worse by discriminatory undertakings given to the non-members that they will receive higher pay increases if the union achieves that in collective bargaining. We warned the company that if they proceeded with this course we will be challenging their actions, including legally.

We have also initiated legal action against Burger King over the interpretation of the collective agreement. When we signed the agreement in October 2015 it had guaranteed “shifts” in the wording rather than hours. We considered this a step forward beyond the McDonald’s agreement. But since the agreement was signed the company has continued to operate essentially the same system as McDonald’s with “hours” being rostered rather than “shifts”.

Restaurant Brands renegotiated their collective agreement after the law was changed to introduce a system of guaranteed shifts. Workers know what their days and hours of work are.
However, we again have problems around ensuring that new staff aren’t hired before shifts that become available by staff leaving are offered to existing staff. This is needed to ensure fairness and transparency and to enable existing staff to get the most suitable shifts to suit their life work balance.

Unite has always had a much stronger presence at Restaurant Brands than other companies. After a major dispute to get our first agreement in 2005-6 we have successfully negotiated without the need to take strike action. It came close on occasion but generally, the company saw sense in the end on the important issues. They were the first to agree to guaranteed hours in 2015 for example. McDonald’s, however, we have ended up in disputes on more occasions than not.

We have also acknowledged that we generally had slightly better wages and other conditions at Restaurant Brands than the other companies and there was a limit on how far ahead we could force the company to go.

The union’s goal this year was to ensure we have a fair system for allocating new shifts which is vital to putting the final nail in the zero-hours regime. We also wanted the company to cease to be a minimum wage employer for new staff and have the living wage there for all supervisory staff at least.

In negotiations this year, however, the company appears to be playing hardball. They are a very profitable company. It is way past time that they cease to be a minimum wage employer for starting staff. Even McDonald’s have said they will start staff at 10 cents above the minimum. It is a matter of public record that RBL has had significant staff shortages over the past year. Their workers have gone above and beyond with many working working long and demanding hours to contribute to the growing profits. Despite this many of their skilled, trained and experienced workers still rely on Working for Families and accomodation supplements to make ends meet. We think they should earn enough to support themselves and their families and that means paying a living wage.

We have been forced to adjourn negotiations and seek a ballot of members on industrial action to advance our claims. Restaurant Brands may well wish they had not unleashed the power of our members in their company. I think some times we need action at all employers at least occasionally just to remind them who creates the wealth they appropriate.

We are also still waiting for all the companies to come back to us on how much they owe staff for incorrectly calculating their annual leave entitlements for years. They all claimed to have appointed external auditors to check what they were paying and if “errors” were made correct them. What they need to know is that there will be no escaping this liability. They will have to do that calculation and report the results to the union . If necessary we will do the audits ourselves and claim the money back through other means. But these companies will be made to pay up in full.


Mike Treen is the National Director and has responsibilities for day to day operations with specific responsibilities for the Fast Food Restaurants and Language Schools.

Unite leader asks why Labour and Green’s promise to uphold neoliberal dogmas

By Mike Treen, Unite Union National Director

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)


Mike Treen (left) in discussion with police over access rights during strike at SkyCity Casino

New Zealand has been subjected to decades of neo-liberal orthodoxy. The period of Rogernomics and Ruthanasia in the late 1980s and early 1990s institutionalised a number of so-called free-market economic orthodoxies around so-called free trade, privatisations, “independence” to the Reserve Bank, “floating” the currency for free speculation, the “Fiscal Responsibility Act” and so on.

It was a genuine neoliberal revolution. We were praised around the world for our radicalism and economic “orthodoxy”. It all remains in place.

The result has been a dismal economic performance on average compared to most other advanced capitalist countries.

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Unite Union invites you to the People's Climate Rally in Taranaki


The ‘People’s Climate Rally’ at the 2017 Petroleum Conference in Taranaki will include protest, workshops and entertainment. The rally is being organised by Taranaki locals and other groups working on climate change, fracking, oil and gas drilling, and social justice.

"Climate change is here. Unite union members were almost killed in West Auckland last week when floodwaters spilled onto electrical equipment in a fast food restaurant.

Climate change isn't something that low paid workers can buy their way out of. You won't find Unite union members buying $100,000 "green" electric cars, or jetting off to safety when the next climate disasters hit. For us, the fight for climate justice is literally a fight for survival.

Unite Union supports everyone taking direct action for climate justice by taking on the polluters face to face at the Petroleum Conference in Taranaki, just as we support workers who take on exploitative employers face to face at the negotiation table, in our workplaces, on our pickets, on our streets.”

- Gary Cranston: Unite Union organiser, West Auckland, Northland and environmental justice spokesperson.

Check out the programme and register here

New Zealand Labour Letter: March 2017

The online publication of the New Zealand Labour Letter is provided as a service to Labour by AIL of New Zealand Ltd. 

National Labour News

The Public Service Association (PSA) and New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) reached an agreement with the government to process pay equity claims based on the principles established by a joint working group led by Business NZ and the Council of Trade Unions. Legislation to implement the changes is expected later this year. In the meantime, the government agreed to accept the principles to resolve current pay equity claims. The agreement means employees who believe they are underpaid because they work in fields dominated by women will be able to make a pay equity claim. The first claims are PSA’s for social workers employed by the Ministry of Social Development and NZEI’s claim for education, behaviour and communication support workers with the Ministry of Education. The agreement will mean a “jump start” for pay equity, said CTU president Richard Wagstaff. "Working women who successfully demonstrate that they have a pay equity claim, will be able to be paid fairly.”


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New sanctions for migrant exploitation useful but much more needed

The new sanctions involving banning employers temporarily from sponsoring visas to import labour to New Zealand is a useful, but very small step, given the scale of the migrant labour exploitation that exists in New Zealand
Whenever a comprehensive survey of migrant labour is done it reveals that the vast majority of employers using migrant labour are not compliant with the legal minimums operating in New Zealand. This was true, for example, for workers in agriculture and the Christchurch rebuild.
Horticulture contractors weeding in Flaxmere, Hastings
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