Backed by strong public support, Unite has been waging a war against zero-hour contracts for some time. Its negotiations with Restaurant Brands concluded successfully earlier this month, ensuring KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Carl’s Jr will all be moving away from the contracts. Burger King and Hell Pizza have also ditched them.
Unite national director Mike Treen says the agreement with New Zealand’s biggest fast food company is the culmination of a decade-long campaign for secure hours. He thinks it will have flow-on effects for other industries.
“It will be welcomed tens of thousands of workers in the fast food industry and hundreds thousands more who will ultimately benefit in other industries,” says Treen. “It represents a fundamental shift in the employment relationship of the most vulnerable workers in the country.”
The talks between Unite and McDonald’s have not been smooth. On Tuesday, media reported that McDonald’s had walked away from the negotiations, claiming Unite had changed its position and was not arguing in good faith.
As reported by the New Zealand Herald, the offer then tabled was for 80 percent security of hours, up to a 32 hour cap, based on an average of the previous 12 weeks' worked hours.
The agreed offer is similar but includes an extra clause. Treen says under the agreement announced today, 80 percent of hours worked over a three month period will be guaranteed. A survey on hours worked will be done every three months, meaning the secure hours will be able to increase over time. The guarantee will begin from July 1. The company and union will review the application of this clause in March 2016.
Both sides now accept that the clause will lead to greater security and regularity around rostered shifts, Treen says.
He said strikes planned at McDonald’s stores around the country have now been called off, asking for supporters who turn up to have a “victory celebration” instead. Treen requested the supporters to refrain from interfering with customer access.
"We haven't finalised all details in the agreement but we are convinced there is good will on both sides to work through the remaining issues without further protests being required.”
A McDonald's spokesperson has confirmed with Stuff.co.nz that the company has settled on terms with the union.
"We know that having security of hours is important to our people, which is why on April 13 we announced that a guarantee of hours would be formally written into our employment agreements," she told the news website.
"Since April 13 we have been working through the technical detail with Unite, along with other elements of the agreement."
The union is now calling on the New Zealand government to outlaw zero hour contracts.