Veteran human rights campaigner and union leader, Mike Treen, is about to join the 2018 international Freedom Flotilla determined to challenge Israel’s 11-year inhumane naval blockade of Gaza later this month.
Treen says it is "a great honour to be asked to participate and a chance to deepen solidarity between workers in New Zealand and Palestine.
"We need an international campaign to isolate apartheid Israel in the same way we did against Apartheid South Africa," said Mr Treen. "I see my participation in this trip as the logical continuation and extension to my participation in the Biko Squad against the Springbok Tour of New Zealand."
In what has been dubbed a "Popcorn Strike" Unite Union will be handing out free popcorn outside Hoyts Cinemas to support Hoyts workers who have been threatened with being locked out until the end of July if they go on strike for only one minute.
Workers are being told they must accept an offer that will put nearly all of them on the minimum wage, currently, $16.50 an hour, with existing rewards for skill and service eliminated over the three-year term they want to impose.
A single cinema ticket is now $19 or more for an adult. The smallest popcorn serving sells for $7.90 and costs only a few cents to produce.
Unite hopes to highlight the low wages being imposed on workers compared to the profits they get from the tickets and confectionary through the "Popcorn Strike".
Hoyts cinemas have threatened their workers that if they take even 1 minute of strike action, they will be locked out of the workplace for almost a month.
The threat comes after union members rejected a 3-year offer that would have seen all staff who are not on base rates that automatically move with the minimum wage forced back towards the minimum wage.
Hoyts have said they will take the draconian step of locking out workers until 26 July even for a "partial strike" like not selling popcorn or workers having their breaks together.
"This is a declaration of war" says Unite Union National Director Mike Treen.
"It became very clear during bargaining that the lockout threat was an instruction from Australia where Hoyt's head office is based. Hoyts Australia is in turn owned by the Wanda group based in China, the worlds largest cinema chain operator who bought the Australian company for a billion dollars just three years ago.
"Hoyts Australia sent a representative to the first rounds of bargaining but boycotted the two mediated bargaining sessions held in the last month.
"We were left in the ridiculous position where the New Zealand team would have to call Australia for instructions whenever solutions to the deadlock were being discussed. Ultimately, the person on the other end of the line refused all compromises. It's like they don't take their NZ operations seriously.
"Hoyts Australia has been plagued by scandal in recent months."
"The company was giving credits to cinema-goers for an online betting account which wasn't requested when cinema tickets were bought. Hoyts Chief Executive Damian Keogh was caught by police flushing cocaine down a restaurant toilet after a day-long liquid lunch but kept his job. (See media links below with video of police bust)
"We wonder if there is a culture of greed and excess at Hoyts and they are wanting to make workers in this country pay for that greed.
"Their claims during bargaining included reintroducing youth rates, stopping the deduction of union fees, and a three-year deal with compressed margins for skill and service in years two and three.
"They want to keep staff who are currently paid above the starting rate to a two or three per cent a year increases when the minimum wage will be increasing by 6 or 7 per cent a year.
"The union has fought hard for years to ensure that workers are able to move off the minimum wage based on their skill and experience.
"When the minimum wage increases we have to be able to maintain those margins for skill and service or we will end up with workers effectively being pushed back on to the minimum wage.
"The company already pays significantly less for supervisors and managers than does Event Cinemas, their main competitor. This difference is already around $2 an hour for most Duty Managers.
"This offer would further undermine margins for skill and service by giving those above the base crew rates only half the increase expected over the next two years for the base rate workers as a consequence of the planned minimum wage increases.
"All the other major employers Unite deal with in the fast food industries and at Event Cinemas have agreed to maintain the margins for skill and service in return for multi-year agreements.
Unite Union is calling on all supporters of workers rights and to start boycotting Hoyts Cinemas and email your concerns directly to Hoyts Australia negotiator, Jodi Paton at firstname.lastname@example.org
"We want to deliver a powerful message to corporate bullies that they are not welcome here," said Mike Treen.
Some recent media reports on Hoyts Australia
By Mike Treen, National Director, Unite Union
(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)
Bunnings have confessed to not paying annual leave correctly and agreed to pay back staff $11 million dollars going back 14 years.
This is an important win for First Union who represent workers at Bunnings and all workers in New Zealand.
It is probable that several million workers are owed money. But the vast majority of them are unlikely to see any of the money deliberately stolen from them by major corporates and payroll providers.
It seems the government has only directly engaged with the 100 biggest employers to demand they fix the problem. There is no mechanism to force compliance on the rest of the employers and payroll providers to ensure that the settlement process is carried through.
Burger King union members across the country are starting strike action tomorrow (Friday 15th June) over pay, hours and health and safety at the fast food chain.
Unite Union National Secretary and lead negotiator Gerard Hehir says the members have had enough, with over 92% voting to take strike action.
“They are sick of having some of the lowest pay rates amongst major fast food companies, sick of working unpaid hours, sick of not getting their breaks and sick of Burger King not sticking to agreements.”
“We were disgusted to find salaried managers, who supervise staff and manage stores on their own, sometimes working for less than the minimum wage. They are routinely expected to not take breaks and to work extra hours without pay or time off. When your hourly rate is just $16.88 - only 34 cents above the minimum wage, you only have to work around one hour unpaid a week to go below the minimum wage.”
Because of these issues Unite has included BK salaried managers in negotiations for the first time and has a case before the Employment Authority for a former salaried manager who ended up in just that situation. Unite has been asking for weeks for clock-in/out time records for all salaried members. Burger King has refused to provide them, denying they exist despite having supplied such information on an individual basis previously.
“This confirms our fears that minimum wage breaches amongst managers has been widespread. Because it involves minimum standards we have now asked the Labour Inspectorate to investigate. It is no surprise that many salaried managers are migrant workers. Pay rates are only effective if you actually get paid for all your work. Burger King needs to wake up - the days of employers getting away with stealing their workers time and wages are over.”Read more
Wendy's was given an interim injunction by the Employment Court yesterday against Unite Union to stop picketers trespassing on the company's land.
The union has disputed whether the employment court had the jurisdiction to issue such injunctions in the circumstances.
The union has also been sent maps by the company that appears to claim a right to exclude pickets from common areas including areas not owned or occupied by Wendy’s.
We do not accept this but will comply with until the full hearing of the court.
Unite National Director Mike Treen says "it is important for all supporters of workers in low-paid industries like fast food to respect these ongoing strikes and pickets by Wendy's workers."
Supporters are being asked to come along and show that support outside the company's Dominion Rd, Auckland, store tonight from 5-7pm.
Wendy's workers and supporters have been picketing stores over the last few weeks to improve the company offer
Wendy's strikes spread to Auckland last night, kicking off with a member of the Unite negotiation team walking off the job to join pickets at the Dominion Road restaurant before workers walked off the job at Wendy's flagship store in Te Atatu.Read more
By Mike Treen, Unite Union National Director
(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)
The government has decided to increase the building of state housing from their extremely modest target of 1000 a year to the still very modest target of 1600 a year over the next four years.
Housing NZ is not being given any extra money to do this.
They will have to borrow on private financial markets at higher rates than the government can borrow money for.
The cost to the government will be more as a result.
This absurd result is the product of what they call “fiscal restraint”.
Here is how it works.
Unite Union has authorised a window of industrial action across Event cinemas up and down New Zealand again today, following on from the success of Wednesday nights' strike on the midnight screening of Star Wars movie Han Solo.