On workers rights and hypocrisy

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I’m at a Café in Howick, Auckland where the Barista just lost it, he smashed glasses on the ground, threw the part that filters the coffee grounds on the floor and stormed out. I chased after this guy and asked him if he was O.K? He said,

“Nah, I am sick of being paid nothing to be a coffee making machine.” And then he walked off.

You know what is not cool? Employers who make heaps of money off the blood, sweat and tears of their employees while paying them poverty wages and treating them as expendable. I am starting to wonder how owners who treat staff so poorly sleep at night.  I have watched the owner of the same café, which also has a bar attached to it, swoon around his establishment while his bartender works her ass off on a Friday evening, not only making drinks for, mostly, baby boomers in boat shoes and salmon coloured polo-shirts (I’m serious, not even making that up for comedic effect) but also doing bar back, clearing the floor and restocking by herself. All because, as this bartender pointed out to me, the owner refuses to hire an extra bartender/glassy for busy periods so he can save a buck. The owner only pays this bartender just over 16 bucks an hour she told me, to literally do two peoples’ jobs.

How mean spirited do you have to be, to work your staff this hard and give them so little thanks in return? How divorced from reality and humanity do you have to be to then expect your workers (and employers who operate in such callous and unaware ways, always expect you to lick their asses. I know, I have worked hospo for nine  years now) to be grateful for their measly pay check?  Get fucked. You get what you pay for. The sad thing is, that barista who justifiably lost it today because he had clearly just had enough, will likely receive a warning or get fired for his outburst. When it SHOULD be the other way around.

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What is the point in serving fairtrade coffee, as this café/bar in Howick does, and promoting other tokenistic gestures such as serving free range eggs and chicken, if you can’t even treat your own staff, fairly? I guess, serving fairtrade coffee in affluent areas gets customers in but paying a fair wage and treating your staff with a bit of dignity doesn’t seem to make much economic sense to so many employers that cater to the mostly rich and well-off, Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen.

Workers rights all over Aotearoa and globally are being relentlessly attacked and undermined.  Furthermore, it is not only hospitality workers who are enduring poor treatment and work place injustice. Just recently the massive fast fashion giant Cotton On, become the first company (that actually got publicly caught out) in Aotearoa to attempt to use National’s callous ‘Tea Break’ bill against their distribution workers, “which takes away the legal right to a tea break and weakens collective bargaining,” as the NZ Herald reported last year. On March the 21 Cotton On, made the embarrassing mistake of posting about ‘Human Rights Day’ on their Facebook Page (the post has since been deleted):

cotton on 2

That awkward moment when a company that outsources the production of their  merchandise to Bangladesh because as Daisy Gardener, Oxfam‘s labour rights advocacy co-ordinator points out, “They are seeking the absolute lowest price from supplier factories and they’ll find that in Bangladesh,” and who attempted to seriously undermine their workers’ rights in Aotearoa, wishes their Facebook followers ‘Happy Human Rights Day.’  The social media backlash was swift with a many people commenting on the hypocrisy of the Facebook post:

cotton on 5

Cotton On, due to social media pressure, and pressure from FIRST Union and their own employees, backed down from taking away their distribution staff’s Tea-breaks, and improvements have been made to wages.  However, as Redline reported, the damage has already been done. Just like hospitality businesses that push fairtrade coffee while treating staff poorly (I once worked at a Café in Melbourne that paid me less than the Australian hospitality minimum wage while promoting ‘suspend fairtrade coffees’ so homeless people or low wage earners could enjoy a free coffee. Seriously. WTF?), Cotton On paints themselves as some human rights crusading company – without irony – while at the same time proposing an attack on their own workers’ rights. Not only this, but since March the 6 the ‘Cotton On Foundation’ which seems to suffer from a serious case of ‘white saviour industrial complex, has been promoting their ‘Necklaces That Sprinkle Happiness Along The Way’ campaign. If you purchase one of these necklaces of “joy” and “hope” 100% of the proceeds go to “their friends in southern Uganda” as their website states.

So while Cotton On benefit from slave labour in sweat shops in Bangladesh which have notoriously sub-human and sometimes deadly work conditions, which have been extensively documented and reported on, they are promoting their human rights efforts in Southern Uganda? What one hand gives, the other takes away.

Maybe Cotton On should spread a little “happiness” on their own employees by, oh I don’t know, treating them as actual human beings rather than as a resource to be exploited? Just an idea.

It would seem independently owned businesses such as the Café I spoke about at the start of this blog as well as massive global companies like Cotton On are pretty good at  distracting (smoke and mirrors) from their own workers’ rights violations by trotting out some human rights mission or pedalling fairtrade, free range produce. Then there are the business owners who don’t even try to mask their blatant disregard for workers’ rights violations, they are seemingly proud of them. ‘Cos LOL worker’s rights.

Rayner Bonnington* owns the Henderson Pak’N’Save and pays the lowest of all the unionised Pak’n’Saves in Auckland. As FIRST Union points out “Even the minimum wage has increased by 50 cents an hour this year but Rayner has offered his workers a measly 32 cents an hour pay rise.” While Rayner makes millions annually, he pays his workers a pathetic wage that does not cover the basic necessities of life; a liveable wage in Aotearoa is $19.25 an hour. Trying to pay the bills, buy food and pay the rent or mortgage is unmanageable on minimum wage, I know as I have rarely ever earnt anything above this. At 29, typing that was truly fucking depressing.

What all of this comes down to is, greed. Companies can, and will (as the café in Howick, the treatment of workers by owners of independent Pak’n’Save’s and Cotton On are all evidence of) treat their workers as expendable and ultimately worthless. After all, workers are a resource to be exploited and replaced by someone else when they make a fuss or do not work hard enough for their pittance. It is a harsh and cruel reality in a flooded job market that finding other people willing to put up with horrible work conditions and shit pay isn’t exactly difficult. People are desperate for work.

Capitalism creates so many casualties.

So, dear companies and independent business owners who champion human rights and fairtrade coffee and organic produce and free range eggs like you actually give a damn, while at the same time exploiting your workers and extracting everything you can from them for your own profit and benefit, stop with the hypocrisy. Start actually treating the staff you currently have, not as a resource to be used up and spat out but as actual human beings with dreams to achieve and bills to pay. Because as the ongoing pickets outside of Pak’n’Save, the social media backlash against Cotton On and the three letters I have written to tell the owner of said café in Howick what a terrible human being I think he is, it is pretty clear the general public are unwilling to except such work place injustices.

*”Please help these workers by contacting Rayner Bonnington and send him a message that his workers who are making him rich deserve a reasoble wage.  Mobile: 021 820 593″ 

 

40 COMMENTS

  1. NZ needs to support unions , before we have no rights at all.
    2015 is the year when things speed up ,read WAKE UP KIWI about the banks confiscation of money world wide,its very concerning be prepared and aware.

  2. Hi Chloe,

    Have participated in a couple of social enterprise workshops – and have found the same degree of “how can I use this to benefit me?” mindset.

    I’m expecting the same buzz around social enterprises to be that similar to the greenwashing marketing campaigns.

    That said, I applaud those companies that do try fundamental changes in their business to caretake their environment, staff and the wider communities.

    • Chloe you are a chosen angel.

      ELLE is right we must support Unions again now the worm has turned the toxic Key colours.

      There is no doubt you was chosen to see the desperation people are suffering from in this uncaring unkind false “take it all” society Planet Key has turned this once caring Egalitarian society now into as a panacea for the greedy & “rich wannabes” at the expense of others.

      Capitalism has now become the rod for our backs, and is dysfunctional and must be replaced by Socialism again as it was in the 1950-60s

      Great blog Chloe good to see you return to us.

  3. Theres a vintage piece of propaganda in the Herald this morning, that only a paper with a vested interest in this National governments long-term health carefully puts out every now and then for the masses to be duped with:

    ..”According to a report in the Weekend Australian Magazine, New Zealand’s growing economy and superior work-life culture are attracting thousands of Australians put off by their own unstable Government and falling economic fortunes”.

    But it gets worse…….

    “In contrast with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the magazine said, New Zealand’s John Key was running the most successful and stable centre-right Government in the world.

    Key presides over a country that is no longer a dead-end backwater but one that enjoys plentiful jobs, strong economic growth and is on the cusp of a budget surplus.” (6 years and still counting!)

    And it rounds off this Goebbels like tripe with “expat Australians said New Zealand had a more balanced work-life culture and it was a better place to raise children.

    Hamilton-based Australian Megan Neal said: “I feel like screaming to Tony Abbott … ‘Can’t you see that the [work-family] culture in Australia is broken!’ They could really learn some lessons from this place.”

    Clearly Megan Neal, whoever she is, hasn’t been to Auckland starters or been in NZ for longer than 5 minutes. And to read this forgery it suggests NZ is a workers paradise. There is no mention of the fact we are the epicentre of “Flexibility” or to put it more accurately the zero hour minimum hour contract, the minimum wage ghetto, the non unionised crap condition work place where its hard to have a balanced anything much less life. It makes no mention that NZ has almost been in a wage freeze for the last 6 and a half years, well maybe 1 and a bit % if you are lucky.

    It also fails to mention that NZ has low inflation only because things like housing/rents etc are not included in that statistic but are included in the fantasy growth stats that National rely upon. Or that to be employed you only have to work one hour, unpaid! Yes, the stats are so wonderful if you want it to be so.

    Key is quoted as saying ” …there are lots of opportunities here in New Zealand and while they may make less money the cost of living is generally a lot lower.” Yep John just about everything is cheaper in Aussie and they get paid better too but hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good John Key story!

    And to cap off this misleading bit of journalism and despite all of the vast advantages of NZ over Australia they claim it says we are still losing 2900 people per month. Now why would that be??

    Obviously this article in Australia was written by a grumpy right winger who states that the sky is falling in because of “an electorate unwilling to accept tough reforms”. And we in NZ no what tough reforms is code words for, exploitation for bigger returns to share holders.

    This kind of utter misleading rubbish, that cannot withstand even a moments analysis is what keeps National in power.

    • A work colleague read that out ( article on NZ being some sort of Shang ri La )to me while we were doing our night shift – and while I work for 25 cents more above the minimum dollar hourly rate….

      The joke is I made more – around $18.00 – per hour back in 1984 doing basic labour in the bush than I do now at age 52 -working for $15.00 per hour.

      Neo liberalism?….go figure why my posts have always been so virulently anti neo liberal….

      It was also interesting to note the selected interviewee’s were those in general who came here already wealthy…and that they could also see the benefit of the ‘ low wage economy ‘…in further increasing that wealth.

      I simply laughed and said to my colleague that you can guarantee almost exclusively that the article was written by those with vested interests such as tourist businesses , private educators , John Key sycophants , economists championing the neo liberal ‘ rock star economy ‘ , Business Roundtable lobbyists wanting cheap labour through immigration and more of the same destruction of unions etc etc…

      If it wasn’t such a serious pile of crock it would have almost been comedic .

      It is amazing that these advertisers think that such ludicrousness will pass over the heads of most people ….that their insulting of the intelligence is acceptable fare for public consumption.

      The article is definitely not to be – or ever was – designed to be taken seriously by anyone with a brain and only designed for consumption by those capable of a very naive , limited and gullible set of cognitive thought processes.

    • 1000% XRay,

      Of course so much of the Crosby Textor crap comes from Australia as they are the prime bull shitters of old.

      Predictably it was common practice to use offshore spin doctors for the Key/Joyce/Goebbels clique to again abuse & steal & use our hard earned tax dollars to attempt to neutralise the unrest at home.

      The driving force it appears is because of being in the wake of the Trouncing Nasty NatZ got in Northland last week, with Winston about to make planet Key his mission to take apart as the biggest scam in NZ history.

      • Somewhere in the depths of the ‘Lifestyle’ section of one of the Australian franchise *news* rags there will be a piece where the word Australian is changed for New Zealander.

        Like those horrid little sidebar adverts that match to your URL.

        The steady drip drip drip of lies repeated often enough.

  4. Really good blog, and sadly the eye watering hypocrisy that Cotton On employ with all the lying doublespeak, corporate mission statements and goals is the way of the corporate world nowadays and one our own dear National Party exploit to the maximum!

    Another is companies who publicly claim to pay the living wage, obviously to boost their image, only to, in reality, liberally employ zero hour minimum wage conditions for many and its here “The Warehouse” comes to mind.

  5. Great blog…. and great point re their ‘tokenist gestures’ of selling ‘Free trade coffee’ ..a fucking joke!!!

    …reminds of the bullshit OTS where polluting Corporations whom are allowed to offset their own polluting industries by destroying biodiverse areas of precious land in the third world to plant their carbon credit trees. The world STINKS of corruption..feels like it is getting worse by the year.

  6. Excellent Blog Chloe, the “gaps” in New Zealand have never been more evident in My lifetime than they are now. The “I don’t give a fuck about anything that is not happening to me now bring me my coffee” attitude of the ‘well to dos’ has been enforced by the false sense of security John Key’s National has offered them to do, be and say whatever they like.
    BUT I firmly believe the teflon is chipping off John and the multitude are becoming increasingly uncomfortable will obvious ill treatments of fellow citizens from the lowly paid carers looking after Our elderly to the checkout operators scanning Our weekly food. Whether there is mince or steak in Your basket the taste will improve if You know the bloody residue on the cling wrap has not been squeezed form Workers like stones…

    • I have a few friends who do not treat hospo staff well, it is so cringe worthy, seriously service staff are people so treat them like they are. X/

      • I’m always super nice to those who work in hotels, restaurants and supermarkets, because I remember a time when I was one of them. It was awful then and I suspect things have only degenerated since.

    • I think you will find john most places do not treat staff well, and many places of work have problems with bullying they do little to combat. And it really depends on how you define useful? I have post grads and undergrads in visual arts and teaching, and all my degrees have been useful to me in different ways. But if you purely measure how useful a degee is by how much profit it might get you in return, then probs not really worth going to University? University is about learning and exploring different ways of thinking…?

      • Well I was talking more in terms of how much you are going to be payed (hopefully more than $16 an hour), and of course lots of workplaces are pretty shitty, but the more valuable you are the more power you will have to fight against it.

        The usefulness of the degree, and the reason for going to University I think depends on why you are getting it. The reason I am pursuing my degree is so I can do something I find interesting and fulfilling, but also quite importantly something that will allow me to make allot of money so I can do the things I enjoy and provide well for my loved ones. So for some that is the reason to go to university, or at least a major factor in deciding what to study. It probably shouldn’t be the sole reason because you could end up in a field you hate, but it probably still works out better than flipping burgers.

        • An education is great no matter what form it takes and the reasons for acquiring it. None the less, someone still has to flip the burgers, make the coffee and clean the toilets. I don’t see why they should not be deserving of a living wage and some basic human dignity while performing those tasks.

          • Of course they should, I was just pointing out that in the current climate with the current working conditions of allot of workplaces getting into a trade or getting a good degree is more desirable.

            And I agree that an education is a great thing, I was just saying that an education that is going to make you better money and better your situation is looking like a good choice given the information in this blog.

            (Also within this century many of those types of jobs are going to be automated, so best up skill yourself sooner than later)

        • “but also quite importantly something that will allow me to make allot of money so I can do the things I enjoy and provide well for my loved ones. So for some that is the reason to go to university, or at least a major factor in deciding what to study.”

          Just like the Terrible Twos – this phase will, hopefully, pass…

        • You are young -I assume -so are not necessarily up with future trends but it is not always a matter of good degree-good pay. My husband -with a good masters degree in operations research – has seen his income and conditions drop as his workload increases and his pay is raised under the rate of inflation since National’s crusade against public servants/’bureaucrats”. When he was at uni it was believed a law degree was the one. Would you go to a cafe & pay it push a button and get your coffee and muffin? Everyone should be paid a FAIR WAGE for their labour – you don’t need a degree for everything.

    • it is hard if you do not have the capital to start your own biz? And not all of us hospo workers want to start owe our cafe, most of us are working these low paid jobs because we have little other options currently.

    • Captain Obvious… so why aren’t you a multi-millionaire?! I’m assuming you’re not – multi-millionaires would have “better” things to do to occupy their time..

    • Making a profit is, though.

      Location, location, location – and the local state of the economy. There are so many people wanting a slice of your till takings – in case you didn’t know.

  7. I am begging some journalist to write about marriage fraud where marriage for a visa which should be if it is not ,illegal.hundreds of women who would never been able to come into the country any other way have opened a back door entry that could even prove dangerous one day as we have no idea who they are and nor do the men they marry .I have first hand experience of the misery caused by a loveless marriage to a frauster such as this and it will haunt me for life .not only is it not fair that these women target elderly men but equally unfair if this is legal that thousand of other refugees are not made aware this is an option for citizenship instead of drowning at sea on boats having used their life savings to get here and more than likely having a far more pressing need than a few Catholic women who treat marriage with such disrespect .lets at least hear some of the stories of those who have been broken by such marriages as I have heard quite a few and they are not nice .I am intending to keep reminding people that the laws in this country should be for all not just some .if this behaviour is to be ok lets have it out their as an option for all would be immigrants ‘

  8. Hi Chloe,

    You write, “What all of this comes down to is, greed.” but then “Capitalism creates so many casualties.” It’s great to read a piece like this brimming with contempt and class hatred for the bosses and their disgusting charades promoting the consumption of human rights commodities (necklaces of ‘joy’ and ‘hope’!) but I think the emphasis needs to be placed on the systematic relations of capitalist society that forces bosses to behave in such ways. The capitalist class systematically exploits the whole of the working class (no matter the differences that exist to divide the class that are used to the full advantage of capital). The problem is less an ethical one and more a political one. Righteous indignation, no matter how justified, can only carry us so far. We need to overthrow the whole rotten edifice of capitalist exploitation, wage labour, and money. The ‘good’ bosses as well as the ‘bad’ ones need to go!

    • I think we only need to dismantle the destructive societal influence of neo liberalism. It is this that creates – or enables – people of dubious ethics to have a free ride .

      Social Democracy , on the other hand – and in particular Keynesian economics – in tandem with regulations to curb the piratical approach of many would – be – get – rich -quick – of – the – backs – of other – human – beings types…would effectively end much of this exploitative mentality.

      Bit like having your hand slapped before you reach into the biscuit jar to steal a biscuit you know your not entitled to.

      The nearest analogy I can think of to neo liberalism is that of the ‘ gold rushes’ – whereby there is no law , prices are exorbitant , exploitation is rife , there are no regulations, people don’t care about humans dying of starvation , being shot and knifed for their hard earned wages….

      And in summary to the above ?

      Lawlessness.

  9. So blacklist that pack n save store (txt sent now 01:36) hope it wakes him up.
    Name the cafe instead of pussy footing around, people like that don’t deserve to be hidden…..

  10. Chloe,
    I am deadly serious you are a chosen one for making the world right again seriously.

    I am 70 yrs old and very few folks have turned my head as you have.

    I believe you should be a candidate for Labour/NZ First as the others are all crap and have lost their mojo.

    You are very level headed and present as a honest human soul that few politicians even understand let alone try to emulate as you do so naturally.

    I am convinced the next administration of NZ will be a labour/NZ First Government with the Greens deciding to give tacit luke warm support rather than their stated claim at present to have an interest in a Blue green line up, and continue on the fringes just doing their own thing as always.

    Think about it please.

    As this is the most likely possibility, to be our next Government after we sweep the criminal Nasty NatZ away from our presence, you should be in the next Government to lead with your humanity.

  11. Excellent blogpost, Chloe. You are definitely one of my must-read bloggers…

    As for Henderson Pak N Save. Shame on them. I’ll be shopping elsewhere, I think, if ever I’m in the area.

    • You’ll be struggling to get traction.

      Pak’n’Save donates to Plunket and the local footie, and lets groups do sausage sizzles outside the door and – They’re Nice! An asset in the community. They even hire people that might not otherwise get any offer at all.

      And yes, they have some seriously unpleasant personnel practices – and many of their staff have been there for years because they like their colleagues and perks.

      Whatever the Thumbs Below say – that’s how P’n’S operate. Excellent cover. Never mind the cracks – look at the wallpaper.

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