By Mike Treen, Unite National Director
Hundreds of millions of dollars are owed to hundreds of thousands of workers and only the top 100 employers are being asked to fix the problem and pay it back.
This should not be acceptable. If it was a worker defrauding a boss or a beneficiary over claiming from WINZ they would be put in jail. This money was taken from workers by employers and or payroll providers who should have known better. When employers are told to pay it back they seem to think it is OK to negotiate how much they should pay back.
How I got hijacked, kidnapped, tasered, cracked ribs and a fractured foot at the hands of the Israeli military in international waters
By Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union
The headline of this article tells the end of the story following an attempt by myself and others this past summer to take a Norwegian fishing boat loaded with medical supplies to the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
The only problem we faced was that Israel has maintained an almost complete siege on that territory of two million people for over a decade. Israel allows nothing to go in or out without their authority. What goes in or out has been radically reduced and is often completely arbitrary – like all sieges.
As a consequence, Gaza is in a state of economic collapse with over 50% unemployment – the highest recorded rate in the world.
Gaza has become like an open-air prison for its two-million people. But in many areas the situation is worse for the people there. They cannot receive visitors. They can never leave. Medical treatment is denied.
Unite union supports the Labour Inspectorate’s enforcement action that has seen Burger King (Antares Restaurants) banned from getting new visas for migrant workers for a year.
The reason for then ban is for paying a salaried manager (and Unite union member) less than the minimum wage:
“This is a large high profile corporation and shows that this is not just a problem for small restaurants and fruit pickers - it goes right across most sectors and company sizes” said National Secretary Gerard Hehir.
(Burger King has 83 Restaurants and employees over 2,600 staff. It first opened in New Zealand in 1993 and is currently owned by one of the largest private equity firms in the world - New York based Blackstone Group. Group CEO Steve Schwarzman was paid US$786 million in 2017).
"Migrant workers are the most vulnerable to exploitation because their visa conditions often tie them to one employer. They fear speaking out because if they lose their job, they lose their ability to work in New Zealand. Employers who steal from their employees need to be sent a very clear message. Banning them from employing vulnerable migrant workers is a good start. If an employer is not able to guarantee the most basic minimum conditions allowed by law, they should not be able to hire vulnerable workers."Read more
Unite Union will be holding its 2018 National Delegates Conference and Union AGM in Auckland on
Wednesday 10th October and Thursday 11th October 2018
St Columba Centre,
40 Vermont St, Ponsonby
Delegates will be attending from all over the country to participate in training workshops, discussions about the future of unionism and Unite, and to elect Unite's National Executive and officers, the leading body of the union.Read more
The following is a release from the French General Confederation of Labour (CGT) who had a member aboard the second flotilla boat, “FREEDOM” boarded illegally by Israeli forces in the last few days.
"The CGT protests against acts of piracy by Israeli forces, as well as the arrests of trade unionists in this occasion
During the night of Friday to Saturday, August 4, the FREEDOM, the second boat of the "Freedom Flotilla" was boarded in international waters.
The attackers who carried out an act of piracy were the Israeli special forces, under the command of the Government of Israel.
On the occasion of this arrest, Pascal MAURIERAS, a CGT sailor who was participating in this peaceful humanitarian mission, was violently arrested, beaten and thrown into an Israeli prison.
During the arrest of the first boat, the "Al Awda", it was Mike TREEN, a New Zealand trade unionist from UNITE, a member of NZCTU and the CSI, who was arrested and very violently hit by the attackers causing serious injuries.
UPDATE (11:48am 31st July NZ time)
We have now received a direct report from Mike in Givon Prison.
He was tasered repeatedly by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) while in the wheelhouse of the Al Awda and subsequently tightly handcuffed. He received injuries to his face and head and was bleeding but is now recovering.
Of Mike’s fellow flotilla members one was tasered in the head, a 69 year old female surgeon received a head injury and a senior Canadian passenger was received a foot injury and had to be treated in hospital.
The IOF takeover of the boat conducted by armed and masked soldiers was clearly violent with many passengers & crew assaulted, roughly handled and hit.
Local civil rights lawyers met with all those detained a few hours ago. All their belongings, including their passports have been seized and not returned, despite promises they would if they co-operated.
Despite KiaOra Gaza contacting the New Zealand Hon. Consul in Tel Aviv requesting assistance we are unaware of any contact, visit or action from the New Zealand Government or its representatives to assist.
(update at 4pm Monday 31st July - The Honorary Consul has now been to see Mike. Winston Peters has responded to the letters sent to him but the Government has taken no specific action apart from alerting the Cairo embassy to Mike's situation).
The next flotilla boat, the “Freedom” continues to approach Gaza.
Previous report (6.15am 31st July NZ time)
Eyewitnesses report that Unite Union leader Mike Treen’s boat was hijacked in a violent raid and that he and the rest of the crew are being held in Givon prison, near Tel Aviv.
Two Israeli citizens who were on board have been charged and released on bail and, contrary to the Israeli military’s claim that the raid on the Al Awda was “without exceptional incident”, Zohar Chamberlain Regev, the boat leader, reports that at the time of boarding: “People on board were tasered and hit by masked IOF soldiers. We did not get our passports or belongings before we got off the boat. Do not believe reports of peaceful interception.”
Mr Regev also reports seeing blood on the deck of the Al Awda as the last participants were being dragged off the ship, which is very alarming given the extreme violence shown by Israel to past flotillas. We are awaiting information about Mike’s condition, charges he may face and what the Israeli’s intend to do with the remaining 20 flotilla participants they have imprisoned.
The international Freedom Flotilla have engaged local lawyers who are trying to gain access to them.Read more
New Zealand Union leader Mike Treen has been attacked and unlawfully detained by the Israeli military this morning and his union,Unite, is calling on our government to demand Israeli authorities release him and the other international campaigners that were aboard the Al Awda this morning when it was raided.
His final radio message just before the Israeli attack can be heard here:
“Mike was taking part in a peaceful mission to deliver aid to Gaza and was in international waters when attacked and detained. We understand he has been taken, kidnapped in reality, to the southern Israeli port of Ashod.” said National Secretary Gerard Hehir.
“We expect the New Zealand government to strongly protest and demand his immediate release, along with his fellow campaigners and the Al Awda so they can deliver the much needed medical aid to the port of Gaza”.
“Their mission to Gaza posed absolutely no threat to Israel or to Israeli citizens. It is a fishing boat loaded with medicines. This is not about security, it is about Israel treating Gaza as the worlds biggest prison, killing, maiming and kidnapping anyone who even approaches the walls, wires and blockades they have built around Gaza - territory the rest of the world has clearly said is illegally occupied by Israel.”
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