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.


Dave Riley said...

Class walk out called over IR laws
ITEM:High school students are being urged by a socialist youth organisation to walk out of class next week and join a student strike against the Federal Government's industrial relations legislation.

Resistance, the organisation behind the planned strike, expects hundreds of students from public and private schools across Sydney - including Newtown High, Knox Grammar and North Sydney Girls High - to take part in the June 1 action.

A spokeswoman for the Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said students were expected to be in class unless they had a legitimate reason and permission from their parents for not being there.

However, university student Simon Cunich, a Resistance spokesman, encouraged students to break the rules to participate in the strike.

"We are encouraging [students] to get permission if [they] can but if not that shouldn't stop them coming because it's such an important issue that we need to be able to go against the rules," Mr Cunich said.

Students from year 8 to year 12, plus some TAFE and university students, are expected to participate, he said.

Resistance believes the new WorkChoices legislation will adversely affect young workers, whom it says are some of the most vulnerable workers in the community.

"We refuse to accept this attack on our rights. We know that if we fight we can win," a statement on the the Resistance website says.

The group says it is buoyed by the success of student protests across France which resulted in the government dropping a controversial labour law.

"In France recently, students spearheaded a mass movement that fought in the streets against a similar anti-worker law, eventually forcing the government to back-down and repeal the law."

Those protests turned violent but Mr Cunich said Resistance's student strike would be a peaceful event featuring a lunchtime gathering at Belmore Park followed by a march along Broadway to Victoria Park.

Past rallies organised by the group, including the 2003 Books Not Bombs student protest against the Iraq war, were marred by scuffles between protesters and police.

The Federation of Parents and Citizens Association said students had a "democratic right" to participate in rallies, so long as they behaved in a civilised manner.

"That's their democratic right and they need to make sure that their student welfare is not being compromised and that their parents and their teachers are informed of their whereabouts," said the association's spokeswoman, Sharon-Roni Canty.

The Education Department said truancy would not be tolerated.

"The Department treats student absences seriously. If students should be in class during this strike action that's been called by Resistance and they are not there, they will need a note from their parents explaining why they are not at school."

Sydney Morning Herald today...

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