Unite Union members in Taranaki have been asked to participate in national "warning shot"

Union members who work at KFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr and Starbucks have been asked to participate in a national strike.
REBEKAH PARSONS-KING/FAIRFAX NZ

Union members who work at KFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr and Starbucks have been asked to participate in a national strike.

Fast food workers are firing a "warning shot" to their parent company in attempt to bargain for better wages.

Members of Unite Union have been asked to participate in a nationwide two-hour strike on Saturday, with a potential organised picket next week in Taranaki if negotiations aren't made during the weekend, lead negotiator Gerard Hehir said.

"The workers are fired up," he said. "These aren't school kids. They're mostly women who want a liveable wage."

Unite Union lead negotiator Gerard Hehir said about 40 members in Taranaki have been asked to skip out of work on ...
John Nicholson

Unite Union lead negotiator Gerard Hehir said about 40 members in Taranaki have been asked to skip out of work on Saturday as a "warning shot".

Workers of KFC, Pizza Hut, Carls Jr and Starbucks have been asked to demonstrate in Auckland, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

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While no pickets have been set for Taranaki, Hehir said the union had been in contact with the region's 40 union members and have asked them to skip out on their rostered hours.

He could not confirm how many of these members would join the walkout.

"There are many ways to strike," Hehir said.

"For example if everyone took their break at the same time, it could shut the place down if there's a small number of staff."

The union has asked Restaurant Brand, a corporate franchisee that manages a list of food retail chains, to increase the base pay of entry level employees by 10 cents above the minimum wage for three consecutive years.

They have also asked for a 25 cent boost to the base pay of shift workers each year, for three years.

"It's a pretty small amount. It's a very modest proposal," Hehir said.

"It wouldn't even bring them over the Living Wage."

New Zealand's current minimum wage sits at $15.75 while the Living Wage has been calculated to be about $20.20 for 2017.

Shift workers, Hehir said, made $16.94 an hour and predominantly women.

"They're skilled workers who have a lot of responsibilities and are in charge of running a store, sometimes without another manager present," he said.

"The overall workforce is about 64 per cent women, 70 per cent of which are shift workers."

While shift workers received an allowance, or a pay increase up to $21.77 an hour, while managing a shop alone, Hehir said these opportunities have become fewer and far between.

"With fixed shifts and less opportunity to pick up shifts from salaried managers, it's not a sufficient allowance."

Unite Union was also upset with a recent pay increase to fast food restaurant cooks.

Hehir said, without consultation with the union, cooks were given a $2.50 raise plus allowance and these workers were predominantly men.

"Shift workers are expected to train cooks and pick up their shifts yet they are making $1.84 an hour less," he said.

The union had not taken strike action since 2005, Hehir said, and were hopeful Saturday's actions would illicit a response.

"This is more of a warning shot. If there's no answer by next week then we'll be organising pickets in other regions."

 - Stuff

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