Wednesday, May 24, 2006
SuperSize My Pay.
The UNITE union in New Zealand has made a tremendous breakthrough among young workers, with its supersize my pay campaign. They have already won big pay rises at Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hut. In March 2006 a deal was struck with the chain “Restaurant Brands” that awarded an immediate pay rise of between 7.9% - 14.2% for KFC and Pizza Hut workers. Starbucks workers won an immediate extra 75 cents per hour, and call centre workers a 11.5% - 14.9% rise on basic. The deal also has another built in rise for next year.
But the most significant political victory is that Restaurant Brands has agreed to phase out lower pay for young workers. As a first step all workers under18 will move to 90% of the adult rate. This means wage increases for younger workers of up to 34.2%.
These advances are significant because New Zealand trade unions suffered terrible defeat in the 1990s with the Employment Contracts Act. From a situation where some 60 percent of the workforce was organised within a few years it was just over 20% overall and 12% in the private sector. Most workers in the service sectors, hotels, offices, retail, fast food and so on became deunionised. Unions held on only in the public sector and larger manufacturing sites. The background is covered in the following interview with UNITE organiser Mike Treen.
Now UNITE are locked in a bitter fight with MacDonalds, who have threatened to “smash the UNITE union”. According to the blog of UNITE organiser, Joe Carolan: “Our members and delegates have experienced severe victimisation and bullying, many workplace leaders having their hours cut, rosters changed to unsocial hours, or asked to find another job "if you don't like it here". Recently, they employed the services of a Kiwi arch union buster, who embarked on a policy of paying non union members more money in an attempt to destroy our membership on the shop floor.
Our members in McDonalds, bouyed by the victories we won at KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut, have now resolved to fight hard in the next few months. At the moment we have over 900 members in McDonalds stores in Auckland alone. But most of these trade unionists are on minimum wage, and are highly vulnerable.”
UNITE are asking for international support. Joe Carolan recently visited the UK to speak to Mark Serwotka. Senior Organiser Mike Treen visited Venezuela and Bolivia, and Education Officer Chrissy Holland visited the LaborNotes Conference in Detroit.
It is an unequal battle, David against Goliath, but a victory against MacDonalds would be a huge boost for trade unionists everywhere. The most concrete support we can give is to donate money. Please make an individual donation, and also raise it through your union branch.