A giant union rat will be appearing outside McDonald’s restaurants throughout Auckland over the coming weeks. Unite union is asking the public to support workers who will be striking to gain pay equity with other fast food companies.‘The Rat’ joined McDonald’s workers at Otara McDonald’s yesterday as they wakled off the job in protest over pay negotiations that have been stalled by the company. Negotiations between Unite union and the fast food giant have been underway since March this year but broke down this week after McDonald’s failed to meet the deadline for a revised offer.
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McDonald's workers in Auckland have begun a series of short strikes which they are planning to stage during the busiest times of the day - lunch and dinner.
The workers say while McDonald's claims to be looking after coffee growers overseas, it is not providing the pay and conditions staff deserve here in New Zealand.
Tearoa Rio hoped working at McDonald's would get her finances on-track at university, and ready to kickstart her career.
"I started working at McDonald's because I wanted to go to MIT and I didn't want a student loan," says Ms Rio.
She earns $12.75 an hour, and after four years with McDonald's she still has not paid off her $6,000 dollar loan, and says her pay is only enough for everyday expenses.
"It's hurting us real hard, especially people with children," she says. "The gas and stuff at the moment, it's just ridiculous and we need more pay."
McDonald's says on average, workers are paid more than 15 percent above the minimum rate. But the union says chains like KFC and Pizza Hut have a higher starting pay.
"The difference is about 50c an hour for the crew, but it's up to $4 an hour for the supervisory managers," says Mike Treen of Unite.
The union is also concerned that some staff are on contracts with no fixed hours.
"What it means is that people can be punished for things by having their hours mucked around with, or sloppy managers can just change people's shifts without giving consideration to people being able to pay their rent every week," says Mr Treen.
McDonald's says it is not to blame for stalled negotiations, which began in March.
"That's up to the Unite union to tell us why it's taken five months with their members," says McDonald's' Mark Hawthorne. "We've been given three weeks to discuss the latest round with our franchisees."
Organisers say today's protest is just the beginning of the campaign. Workers throughout Auckland are planning to strike over busy lunch and dinner periods over the next few weeks. It may then extend to the rest of the country.
FURTHER READING- BEAT THE BRANDS
the story of how New Zealand's fast food workers unionised and led the SupersizeMyPay.Com campaign of 2006