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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

McStrikes spread to Hamilton!

Joe talks to Unite Union organiser and Socialist Aotearoa member Kathryn Tucker from the picket lines in Waikato as the McDonald's strikes spread south.

Kathryn, could you tell us a bit about the mood of the fastfood workers in Hamilton?
They are frustrated by McD's response to their claims. McDonalds have said that they won't get back to us with an offer until sometime in November. It has been 6 months since our collective expired. The 25 cents that was offered is seen as a bit of a joke.

25 cents an hour is an insult. Are the stores in Hamilton owned by the company, or franchisees?
Company owned. Outside in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato, the stores are franchisees.

What's the make up of McD workers in Hamilton?
Young workers, a real mixture- no group that particularly stands out. A bit different from Auckland. When you organise in Auckland you discover that particular stores will have a certain make-up. eg. Asian migrant workers, students working part time in the CBD stores, Pacific Islanders in South Auckland etc. Hamilton is pretty evenly spread. The majority are probably working class Pakeha.

Most of my members are not students and they would like to train as managers- but the McDs managers are paid so low compared to other fastfoods.

What are workers saying about the company now the strikes have started?
There's renewed interest in joining the union- they are excited about strike action, they want to stick it to the multinational. They are seeing more value in joining up now than before

What do workers think the minimum wage should be?
They would love 15 dollars an hour but I think at the moment they would happy with some service pay. The offer was 25c after 6 months but based only on performance. They don't even know how to get that because they don't get evaulated.

$12.25? Jesus Christ. What are the other issues that workers have besides these poverty wages?

Long hours, not getting breaks, doing double shifts for no overtime. Finding it hard to get training to get promoted. And there's also a discreet form of bullying. One manager yesterday was hassling my lead delegate about when the strike was on- then in the same sentence he asked about missing money. No proof, no nothing- they just accused him out of the blue.

Do the fastfood workers see their fight as a fight for all low paid workers?

Yes. they are bringing up other struggles like the Wellington bus drivers saying that they have to support all workers. I didn't even mention it!

What do strikers think about the elections? Who are they going to vote for and why?

No one seems to have a preference. I heard a couple say Winston Peters because they felt sorry for him!

For you, what is the role of a socialist as an organiser with a union?

I think my role is to encourage members to think beyond their workplace- that their personal situation is a symptom of a wider problem, of unequal power relations in an unfairly organised society. That's what we want to change.

What can SA readers do to help the McD workers strikes?

Just come along to the picket lines. All the workers want is support- they are always asking me for that. Most are scared, they've never been on a strike.

TXT your support for the Hamilton McDonald's strikers to Kathryn at 029 5441107
email: kathryn@unite.org.nz

more McStrike pics HERE

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