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BK Workers and their union take company to court


Low paid workers organised in Unite Union are suing Burger King New Zealand for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Unite National Director Mike Treen says that the fast food giant is "carrying out an anti-union campaign to cover up the worst examples of exploitation of vulnerable young and migrant workers that exist at a major employer in this country."

Unite claims that Burger King has been employing a majority of migrant workers in both management and crew positions so they can exploit them without complaint.

"Many of these workers feel forced to work double shifts, continuous graveyard shifts or even unpaid to keep their jobs or maybe be promoted to a manager’s position so they can get a work visa. " said Mike Treen

"We have many examples of managers bullying and shouting at staff. BK is the only fast food employer where over three quarters of the staff remain on the minimum wage no matter how long they have worked for the company. We have cases of crew on $13.50 an hour despite working for the company for 15 years."

Last year the company was taken over by the private equity firm called the Blackstone Group. The union claims that this company has a reputation for its principals being engaged in right wing anti-union political campaigns in the USA. Burger King have also engaged the services of Teesdale Loof – a management advisory company that Unite Union says has a history of anti-union activities in New Zealand. "Their senior partner Tony Teesdale has boasted to Union officials that he played a central role in drafting the Employment Contracts Act and eliminating penal rates in many industries – including the fast food industry," claimed Mike Treen.

This year Unite was successful in reintroducing overtime rates in their Collective Agreement with Restaurant Brands, who own KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks. Mike Treen said that Burger King desperately resisted signing a Collective Agreement with Unite and were the last major fast food company to do so. "They have always actively discouraged staff from joining and because of that fact been successful in keeping their wages below those of their competitors," he said.

"This year Burger King launched a coordinated national campaign to force hundreds of union members to resign from the union. Managers had targets for membership reduction and were badgered into compliance if they didn’t meet them. Crew were told that if they didn’t resign they would never be made managers. Workers who resisted the pressure had their hours cut or were simply bullied.

"They want to get rid of the union at BK because they don’t want anyone to get in the way of their exploitation of these young and vulnerable workers," Mike Treen said.

The union application to the Employment Relations Authority calls the campaign to force members to resign a “deliberate, serious, coordinated, self-serving and sustained” breach of Burger King’s good faith obligations under the law.

The workers and the union are seeking penalties against the company as well as individual managers and area managers for each breach of workers’ employment rights that has occurred.

One Unite Union member at BK was also allegedly assaulted this week by her manager and the company has refused to hand over the video of the alleged assault.

Unite Union national Director Mike Treen is calling on all people who "value basic human rights and fair treatment to send a message to BK to end their anti-union campaign and respect their workers rights to organise to improve their situation. We will not stop until this culture of bullying is brought to an end once and for all" he said.