1 July 2015 Editorial
A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of a democratic alternative to austerity. The Syriza government of Greece incarnates that alternative, which is why the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) have allied with the IMF to exorcise the challenge it represents. With few exceptions, political parties of every persuasion have tacitly or actively supported the anti-Syriza coalition.
On June 8 Murray Taylor became the fourth person this year to die while working in a quarry in New Zealand. The excavator Taylor was operating became buried under 1500 tonnes of rock when a cliff-face collapsed above him in a North Canterbury limestone quarry.
By Mike Treen, Unite National Director
The members and staff of Unite Union are deeply disappointed at the ending of the Campbell Live show and the exit of John Campbell himself from this important part of the media landscape.
Unite has had a special relationship with John and his show for the decade the show has been running. In part our fortunes have been mixed together in ways few know about.
These Indonesian workers printed up a banner using a web design from Unite NZ to show support on February 14, the day of our national fast food workers meeting
By Mike Treen, Unite National Director
Workers in the fast food industry in New Zealand scored a spectacular victory over what has been dubbed “zero hour contracts” during a collective agreement bargaining round over the course of March and April this year.
The campaign played out over the national media as well as on picket lines. The victory was seen by many observers as the product of a determined fight by a valiant group of workers and their union, Unite. It was a morale boost for all working people after what has seemed like a period of retreat for working class struggle in recent years.
Workers in the fast food industry have long identified “zero hour contracts” as the central problem they face. These are contracts that don’t guarantee any hours per week, meanwhile workers are expected to work any shifts rostered within the workers “availability”. Managers have power to use and abuse the rostering system to reward and punish, without any real means of holding them to account.
Unite Union Organisers
Unite has a vacancy for two full-time organisers:
a) A one year fixed term organising position based in either Rotorua or Hamilton
The position will organise in the Central North Island region (including Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne) and will be based within Hamilton or Rotorua , depending on the successful applicant.
b) A full-time permanent position based in Auckland.Read more
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National Labour News
McDonald's agreed May 1 to join Burger King and Restaurant Brands and cease using controversial "zero hour" contracts, announced New Zealand's Unite Union, which organises fast food, hospitality and retail workers. "This is a historic agreement. Now all of the major fast food chains have committed to ending zero hours. This is the culmination of a decade-long campaign for secure hours by Unite Union," said Unite national director Mike Treen. "It will be welcomed by tens of thousands of workers in the fast food industry and hundreds of thousands more who will ultimately benefit in other industries. It represents a fundamental shift in the employment relationship of the most vulnerable workers in the country." The victory came after a 10-year campaign by the union against the contracts which deny workers guaranteed hours each week. Unite had planned strikes across the country May 1 which it called off. "Zero hours" contracts refer to the fact that a worker is not guaranteed any hours of work during the week.
All trains stopped for one minute on April 28, International Workers' Memorial Day, in addition to other actions by the Rail Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) to push for a ban on asbestos. "A recent report urged the government to consider banning the importation and use of asbestos in New Zealand. Almost every week, RMTU members find new containments of asbestos in their workplaces" said RMTU General Secretary Wayne Butson. "This has to stop, but it cannot while the government continues to allow the importation of products containing asbestos". Other actions on April 28 included large ceremonies at the Dunedin, Napier, Christchurch and Lower Hutt rail workshops. Butson said RMTU members "feel very strongly" about this issue and Workers' Memorial Day "because our union has suffered a terrible loss of life within the rail and port industries." He said union members are committed to removing hazardous substances from the workplace and called on the government to make a similar commitment.
Unite National Director returns to office at 12.01am (May Day) with signed Terms of Settlement from McDonald's
Media release - May 1 (May Day)!
Unite Union has reached an agreement with McDonald's over ending zero hour contracts and other issues in dispute with the company.
- The company started paying non union staff earning above the minimum wage a 50 cent an hour increase from April 1 but threatening union members that they won't get that increase.
- Some franchisees did no pay the minimum wage rise from April 1 to union members until told they were breaking the law!
- The company deliberately delayed negotiations for several weeks until the contract expired on the promise of a big move towards an end to zero hours and when the offer came it affected less than 10% of staff.
- The company won't allow the union to put notices up in stores without the company censors approval.
- The company refuses staff the option of joining the union at the time they join the company.
- Workers at McDonalds franchises are routinely pressured to resign from the union under threats.
- Managers, or anyone who wants to be a manager, are told that being in the union is not good for their future prospects.
- The company was the last of the fast food companies to sign a collective agreement with Unite. During the initial negotiations they refused to deduct union fees for six months and paid a minimum wage rise a month early to non-union staff to try to stop people joining Unite.
- The company regularly interferes with Unite's right to visit member and talk to non-members when legally visiting stores.
- The company has cut the hours of staff for taking strike action.
- The company refuses to recognise the right of union staff to go behind the counter to inspect for health and safety breaches.
- The company managers constantly use their power to cut hours under zero hour contracts to punish workers for exercising basic legal rights including taking their breaks and using sick leave. This culture is so ingrained that the company made a formal proposal in bargaining that they wanted to be able to take guaranteed hours off staff for two alleged "no shows".
Unite Union Media Release April 28, 2015
McDonald's has walked out of bargaining with Unite Union today despite taking the first steps towards a meaningful offer around ending zero hour contracts.
Unite National Director Mike Treen says the union was bewildered by the company action.
We had welcomed their offer and wanted more information around how that might work with secure shifts for staff in the future. Other fast food companies like Restaurant Brands and Burger King have acknowledged that a secure hours regime will necessarily involve some form of secure shifts as well.
We also wanted to continue bargaining around a few other claims that were important to the union including a special payment for members to allow the terms of the collective agreement to be passed on to non members of the union. We also wanted the right of staff to join the union when they join the company and the right of the union to to put up union information in stores without a company veto. These are basic rights we have at other fast food companies.
Instead of negotiating meaningfully on these issues which we prepared to do they walked out.
Unite will conducting strike action by its members at McDonald's on May 1. We ask all fair minded Kiwis to show their support for these workers on that day which is also May Day or International Workers Day.
The author is a McDonald's crew member in the South Island.
Going on strike is scary, but it's also very exciting.
It's not like other kinds of protest. You're not just showing up to the city square at 3pm, marching down the road shouting about the war/the environment/the Illuminati lizard people then going home to obsessively search Facebook for photos with you in them. Instead, you have to walk off your own job, under the watchful and perhaps slightly disapproving eyes of the shift manager.
Normally these are the guys in charge, the ones who tell you what to do, but for this one moment, on this one day, life gets flipped-turned upside down and you take control. It's exciting, but it can also be very scary.
In the days leading up to the strike you sneak conversations with your coworkers while the managers are out back. You remind them that the union is negotiating for us all to get secure hours and higher wages, and that the bosses are refusing to budge. You argue that if we strike it'll show the company that we means business, and it'll put us in the media – who, for once, are overwhelmingly on our side. Everyone knows zero hour contracts are bullshit.Read more