Last night on Friday 10th May, McDonalds workers and their supporters held a picket outside the Britomart McDonalds store. Striking workers were joined by members of the Mana movement, university students, Socialist Aotearoa and the Meat Workers Union of Australia!
A group of about 30 people created a physical picket line across the two entrances of the store, holding banners and placards reading '25c wont pay the rent', and 'McStrike'.
Unite has come out fighting in support of migrant and gay workers who have faced discrimination in their workplace. Workers have had their hours scaled back and faced threats of disciplinary action if they stand up for their rights. Managers at the Britomart store had told one young gay worker to stop talking so gay, and if he turned anyone else gay at the store he would be disciplined!
Homophobic and discriminatory behaviour like this has no place in New Zealand workplaces! Last nights picket was well supported within the gay community with supporters coming down to support the 'camp' themed picket. Supporters were seen kicking their legs out can can style and YMCA actions featured prominently as they danced to the impromptu sound system camped right outside the entrance of the store. This upbeat and boisterous picket was obviously effective as a strong and imposing police presence made itself felt not long into the demonstration.
For a picket of 30 odd people, the presence of 25 police was a massive waste of police resources. On a busy Friday night, would it not have been a better use of their time patrolling the streets or working on unsolved criminal cases? Their commanding officer was seen many times 'discussing' the picket with Unite national director Mike Treen, unhappy about the doorways to his favourite being blocked by striking workers. When it was clear that picketers were having an effect on the business inside, police took control of ensuring McDonalds continued operating stationing uniformed police officers at its doors.
The New Zealand police should not be involved in providing private security for a multinational corporation. Especially not when that same company is in dispute with its workforce. Since when do we pay tax dollars for a police force that protects the rights of businesses to discriminate and intimidate their workers. Unite is completely within its rights under New Zealand law to demonstrate against this company and at no time was there any illegal activity going on. The police have no place being security guards for McDonalds.
A brisk march up Queen street to visit other fast food outlets and to the Queen Street McDonalds, saw the police migrate up the this store and create a physical wall of blue in front of the entrance. Striking workers and their supporters were kept well away from the store and forced across the road with many people being pushed and shoved by police. This reaction by the police clearly demonstrates which side the police are on. They are there to protect the interests of multinational corporations and the profit the make. Shame on the New Zealand police for supporting homophobic and discriminatory behaviour in the workplace!
Unite is planning a nationwide campaign against McDonalds now that talks have broken down. This fight isn't over, it's just getting started. Because 25c won't pay the rent of hardworking McDonald workers and wont support their families. Over the coming weeks and months as this campaign gets bigger, McDonalds workers and their supporters will be coming out in force to challenge this company and fight for better wages and conditions. Because after all, as our closing chant demonstrated on Friday night. 'We are family'!