Fast food delegates prepare a solidarity message for workers in US at Unite national conference
By Mike Treen, Unite Union National Director
150 Unite Union delegates resolved to launch a campaign in the new year to end zero hour contracts in the fast food industry at their national conference December 1-2.
At their national conference Unite discussed recent cases where the existence of these type of agreements have been used against workers.
Ex-McDonald’s worker Stephanie Phillips was at work even though she had three broken ribs and a punctured lung. When the pain and discomfort got too much she asked to go home but this was refused. When a customer saw her coughing up blood and complained she was transferred to the drive through. She was only allowed to leave after 5 hours. Workers are able to be treated this way because they lack the power to assert their rights. They know that if they do speak up the managers take their revenge by cutting their hours.
Restaurant Brands which owns the KFC brand implemented a new roster last week cutting hundreds of hours from workers regular roster without consultation. Some staff have been working regular 5-6 hour shifts for many years only to have their shifts cut to three hours. Management hours have also been cut so that it will be impossible for them to run the store without themselves clocking out and working unpaid. There will be added pressure on crew to not take breaks and work unpaid as well. Again the company believes it can do this because there are no guaranteed hours for crew at KFC. Suspicion is widespread that these cost cutting measures are designed to boost profits so that the share price hits $4 and triggers a $1 million bonus for the chief executive.
Opposition party leaders including Andrew Little from Labour, Winston Peters from NZ First and Metiria Turei from the Greens spoke to the Unite conference in support of the union’s objectives.
Action Station has also swung in behind the campaign to ban zero hour contracts.
Zero tolerance for Zero hours became the message of the conference. It finished with video in solidarity with the fast food workers in the US who are planning their biggest national strike on December 4. Unite’s message was “We did it so can you – $15 and a union!”