McDonald's staff strike over zero hours video

ASHTEN MACDONALD/Stuff.co.nz

McDonald's workers protest their zero hour contracts in Wellington today.

Around 100 people waving union and political flags filled up the footpath outside a central Wellington McDonald's restaurant as part of an international fast food workers day of action.

Wednesday lunchtime protesters in the capital, as well as in Auckland and Palmerston North, were demanding an end to zero-hour contracts, under which workers have no guarantee how many hours they will get each week.

The rallies went ahead despite McDonald's saying it had already agreed to move to a new contract that was not zero hours.

McDonald's workers are preparing to go on strike today.
MIKE BLAKE

McDonald's workers are preparing to go on strike today.

 "We've committed to negotiate the detail. Over recent days Unite has stalled the process in order to carry out a strike today it has had planned for several weeks," McDonald's communications manager Kim Bartlett said.

The McDonald's proposal was to formalise a policy guaranteeing workers would get at least 80 per cent of their average hours, based on the previous 12 weeks, up to a 40-hour cap.

But Unite national director Mike Treen said the proposal was no better than the status quo. It was based on rostered hours, rather than hours actually worked.

Manawatu Standard

Protesters rally outside a McDonalds restaurant in Palmerston North to highlight the issue of Zero-hour contracts.

Rostered hours were entirely at the discretion of the company, whereas hours actually worked could be monitored.

"They have made a nonsense of an offer they can't explain," Treen said.

On Wednesday Bartlett said: "Whether it's scheduled or worked hours, we're committed to moving away from zero hours contracts and we're committed to bargaining and working through the detail with Unite."

Negotiations needed to continue to work out the details but Unite had walked out of the talks.

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In the Wellington protest, the focal point of the rally was just metres from the entrance to a McDonald's restaurant but that did not dissuade some diners from entering the premises.

Nic Burton, 18, who was helping to hold a red banner saying "End Zero Hours" and who works at the Porirua McDonald's, said it was disappointing to see people still going inside despite the rally. "They're just not getting the message," he said.

The way hours were divided among workers now was unfair. With the school holidays on, secondary school pupils were getting more hours than he was, even though they were living at home while he had to support himself.

"Our hours are all over the place. There's no certainty about the time you start or the time you finish."

Normally he worked about 30 hours a week, but some weeks it had dropped to as low as 15 hours and and once only 10 hours. "I was struggling that week," Burton said.

Also at the rally was Thomas Gaylard, 20, a KFC worker who was there to show support for his counterparts at McDonald's.

"I'm ... fighting on behalf of people suffering zero hours," he said.

KFC is part of Restaurant Brands, which has reached an agreement with Unite to end zero hours, but Gaylard said before that there had been one week where he only had four hours. "That was a really bad week for me."

Other Restaurant Brands labels are Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Carl's Jr.

Burger King also avoided strike action, with an offer that would ensure regular shifts for workers within the next six months.

Among those on a picket line in Auckland was Labour's workers' rights spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway.

"If other fast food giants operating in New Zealand are happy not to use these nasty contracts and can guarantee decent work hours, there is no reason why McDonald's can't follow suit," he said.

Action against McDonald's is to move to Dunedin at 5pm on Wednesday, followed by Christchurch at 6pm.

All restaurants are staying open during the action.

About 1100 of McDonald's 9000-strong workforce are union members.

Treen said today's action was "just the beginning". The workers taking action were very brave as they could face retaliation, and needed people's support, he said.

He called on supporters to visit the Unite website and sign a letter asking McDonald's to "join the 21st century" and end zero-hour contracts.

The Government is likely to outlaw zero-hour contracts once the findings of a review into the practice outlines how to do so.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse asked officials to review the legislation late last year, after concerns employment laws were not being used as intended.

Prime Minister John Key said if zero-hour contracts were being used in a way to discriminate against employees then that had to stop.

"But general flexibility in the labour force is also important, because there are some people who want to have that flexibility," he said.

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