BK takes grilling from long-term workers

CHARLES ANDERSON AND MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 05:00 26/08/2012

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Some Burger King employees say they have been working for up to 10 years on the minimum wage without receiving any performance or service-related pay rises.

One 57-year-old worker who has worked at the fast-food chain for the past six years called it "disgusting" and "demoralising".

"I feel it's not fair," she said. "I know the ropes, I know what has to be done yet a kid comes in and gets paid the same as me."

Another worker said he had worked for a Wellington Burger King for 10 years without a company-instigated pay rise.

On April 1, when the minimum wage went up to $13.50 from $13, it is alleged many workers also lost a margin they were earning above the minimum wage. They were told they had to to earn back their right to that margin by completing "module" training. It is understood staff are being told they need to do the training in their own time.

The female worker said it could take months to complete all the modules and at the end of it there was no guarantee of the pay rise.

"You get the feeling the managers are all laughing at us," she said.

Another worker said when the minimum wage went up he lost his extra entitlement of 25 cents on top of the previous minimum wage.

"I have no say in it. They say in my contract that whatever they say goes."

The allegations come in the wake of complaints by workers' union Unite against the company.

Burger King has applied to the Employment Relations Authority seeking an injunction to stop Unite from organising teach-ins at its stores about worker rights.

Unite national director Mike Treen said about 200 people had been compelled to quit the union over the past three months with members' hours being changed or staff told they wouldn't be promoted if they didn't resign.

"This was done through bullying and pressure."

Last year, Dunedin Burger King worker Julie Tyler faced disciplinary action over a comment she wrote on a Facebook page saying the company underpaid and overworked its employees.

She eventually kept her job.

Burger King spokeswoman Rachel Allison said Burger King would investigate any allegation of bullying.

Massey University's Dr Bevan Catley said a number of cases involving bullying in the workplace, including allegations against staff at Burger King, Auckland Council and Building and Housing had put a spotlight on the need for tighter regulation. “There is a clear need for better information for employers about the nature of bullying, its impacts, and how to manage it. Too often good staff have no option but to quit while the bully remains protected by top management," Catley said.

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Burger King says it's a responsible employer which cares about employees. Allison said she encouraged any employee with a pay issue to lodge a formal complaint.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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