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Aotearoa/New Zealand: Call for international solidarity with Burger King workers

By Joe Carolan

August 24, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Workers employed by the Burger King fast-food chain, organised by the Unite Union in Aotearoa/New Zealand, are suffering a sustained union-busting campaign, and are now fighting back.

Burger King workers are the lowest-paid fast food workers in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Most are on the minimum wage, even some who have worked there for 15 years. Managers on salary are forced to work extra hours, and sometimes work for less than the minimum wage per hour. Many workers in Burger King are migrant workers, mostly from the Indian subcontinent. They face a bonded labour system. They are terrified of speaking out about mistreatment in case the company revokes their visa sponsorship .

Now the company has tried to bust their union, and is seeking an injunction stopping them from speaking to the media and conducting teach-ins in the community. Unite has taken the company to the Employment Authority, detailing the company's illegal anti-union activities, in a battle that is now shaping up to be the McLibel case of the South Pacific.

Unite union appeals to workers in other countries to organise pickets outside Burger King outlets in all the great cities of the world in solidarity with our fight.

Our fight is for the low-paid precarious workers.

Our fight is for the invisible migrant workers.

Our fight is against 21st century bonded labour and slavery.

Workers of the world unite! Down with the Burger King!

[Joe Carolan is campaigns officer for the Unite union, Aotearoa/New Zealand. Phone 029 44 55 702 or email joseph@unite.org.nz. Heaps of videos, photographs and information at Unite's blog at http://unitenews.wordpress.com.]

Burger King trying to silence its workers says Unite Union

By Mike Treen, Unite national director

August 23, 2012 -- Unitenews -- Burger King is trying to intimidate and silence its workers and the Unite Union from criticising the company. The company has applied to the Employment Relations Authority seeking an injunction to stop Unite from organising teach-ins at its stores about how the company is treating its workers. It also wants to shut down the union's blog from reporting on Burger King and its activities. Burger King have told its staff that if any of them speak up at teach-ins outside its stores they face “serious consequences”.

This instruction posted in all the stores has simply made the workers more angry. One Burger King worker in Blenheim has set up a Facebook page to have a silent protest outside their store on August 25.

Burger King workers and their supporters also plan a rally in Dunedin on August 25 at 2 pm at the Octagon . Burger King Burnside delegate Julie Tyler was threatened with dismissal last year for saying Burger King workers were “overworked and underpaid” on her Facebook page. Unite Union now has more evidence that this entire disciplinary process was a set up by the company to try and get rid of a union delegate.

Burger King claim that the union is breaching its obligations of good faith by publicly criticising Burger King rather than using the normal channels available in an employment relationship. This is a particularly ironic statement given that the company has targeted our members and delegates precisely because they have tried to exercise their legal rights.

We will pursue personal grievances and other legal action as required. But we will also hold the company up to the inspection of the court of public opinion until we have broken the climate of fear and intimidation that Burger King has tried to impose on its workers.

Burger King teach-in, Auckland, August 19, 2012, part 1 of 3 (Mike Treen)

Burger King teach-in, Auckland, August 19,  2012, part 2 of 3 (Mike Treen)

Burger King teach-in, Auckland, August 19, part 3 of 3 (Joe Carolan)

Burger King protest, August 19, 2012, part 1 of 2 (picket line chants)

Burger King protest, August 19, 2012, part 2 of 2 (Jerry Prakash, Darien Fenton, Barry Kaloti, Lynette Fray)

Unite Union KFC delegate Jerry Prakash, Labour MP Darien Fenton, Barry Kaloti from the Baghat Singh Society and Lynette Fray, Burger King worker assaulted by a manager at a Burger King store.

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