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NewZealand: SuperSizeMyPay.Com: $12 Minimum Wage, Abolish Youth Rates and Secure Hours

category aotearoa / pacific islands | workplace struggles | opinion / analysis author Saturday November 05, 2005 04:21author by Bobo - Unite Unionauthor email simon at unite dot org dot nzauthor address 6a Westernsprings Rd, Morningside, Auckland, NZauthor phone 64274555789 (64274KKKSUX) Report this post to the editors


I am organising a campaign called SuperSizeMyPay.Com with other organisers at the Union I work for in Aotearoa/New Zealand to fight for a higher minimum wage, the abolision of youth rates and secure hours in the Fast Food industry and to get this legislated.

This started as a comment on Anarchos article about the US minimum wage. It turned into something quite broad, so I thought I'd repost it as an article.

I am organising a campaign called SuperSizeMyPay.Com with other organisers at the Union I work for in Aotearoa/New Zealand to fight for a higher minimum wage, the abolision of youth rates and secure hours in the Fast Food industry and to get this legislated.

The minimum wage for adults is currently US$6.5 (NZ$9.50) and for 18-17 US$5.30 (NZ$7.80.) Those under 16 do not have a minimum wage.

Several political parties, including a centre-right coalition party, want the minimum wage to be raised to US$8.20 (NZ$12.00) by 2008.

Our Union says 2008 is to late, $12 now! That people shouldn't be disciminated on the base of age: equal pay for equal work. We say that workers in Fast Food and other low wage and minimum wage workers are undervalued: equal pay for work of equal value.

Our economy has been strong recently, so we have seen many Unions fighting for 5% pay increases.

However, corporate profits have been 11% in the last 5 years and workers pay increases on average have only been 2.1% in the same period. Adding this to a high cost of living, (20% increase in the price of food over the past 5 years, incredibly high cost of accomodation, particularly in Auckland, petrol costs, 47% increase in electricity in a short period of time etc etc), the minimum wage rises have been completely inadequate. The government effectively subsidies companies when these poverty-wage workers need welfare assistance.

With the loss of the union award system (whereby Unions bargained for industry wide wage structures), the only pay increases many workers have had in the past for years are legistlated minimum wage changes. For those just above minimum wage, they have had even less wage increases. Union membership here is only 20% and in the private sector only 9% and in Fast Food 1%. (Although we are changing that.)

Raising the minimum wage would be a first step towards:

* redistributing wealth
* bridging the gap between rich and poor
* bridge other social inequalities: women, youth, migrant workers, maori, pacific islanders, disabled etc are all disproportionately in low paid and casualised jobs
* be a step towards a living wage
* higher standard of living

You must remember that Aotearoa/NZ used to have one of the highest standards of living in the Western world. We now have one of the highest rates of low pay and child poverty.

Strategically - raising the minimum wage is an important campaign. It is a very real issue to many people within the community - not just within the workplace.

Poor workers may or may not be interested in political speak, but they certainly don't have time to invest their energies into something that they can't guareentee will have any direct benefits for them.

Raising the minimum wage is a simple concept that anyone can understand. Anarcho-Communism is not.

Building a campaign around a NZ$12 minimum wage is a winnable goal. The Australian minimum wage is NZ$13.40. If political parties are suggesting it should be legislated in 2008 they have at least raised peoples expectations. Whilst $12 is not enough, it is a practical and winnable step towards a living wage. The ILO, the European Union (and NZ in 1978) suggest a minimum wage set at 3/4 of the average wage. That would mean a minimum wage of US$10.25 (NZ$15.00). (Our average wage is: US$13.65, NZ$20.00)

The area that we are working in is completely unorganised. Winning a campaign like this would help reorganised the disorganised in the partnership unions by setting an example. It would build confidence in the workingclass as a whole. It would have ramifications outside the workingplace.

We recently reached 2000 members in our Fast Food Union which includes McDonalds, KFC, PizzaHut and Starbucks. We will soon be moving on to Subway, Wendies, Domino Pizzas and other brands.

The law in Aotearoa/NZ is a little different than the US and as far as I know its much more similar to Canada. Australia is at the moment attempting to bring in laws similar to our Employment Relations Act which deregulated the labour market. (NZ was the first country to really buy into the whole Neo-liberal agenda, private everything and run everything on the ideology of the market.)

We still have access to workplaces, meaning I can go into any workplace for the purpose of recruiting or talking to workers about issues or collective barganing. All I need to do is talk to the manager to say that I am there, not necessarily who I want to talk to etc. And as long as I do not disrupt buisiness (which is as much on my viewpoint as theres) I can talk to any worker including non-members. We have made agreements with most of these companies not to go behind the counter, which we have a legal right to do, and instead talk to individual workers at a table.

When you first go to a company, to initiate barganing all you need is two workers in a workplace. If its a single company, like Restaurant Brands which runs Starbucks/KFC/PizzaHut here in Aotearoa/NZ, all you would need is two workers from any of those stores are you could intiate. With franchises, you need to have 2 per franchise. Preferably when you intiate barganing you would want as many people as possible.

Once you have initiated barganing you make a barganing agreement which determines how you will negotiate. Just a point here - we have this thing called "Good Faith" which means that there is an understanding that collective barganing will only work with some level of cooperation. It is meant to also recognise the unfair advantage that the company has, but also the right of collective barganing for those who choose it.

A company is legally required to listen to any claims your workers have and reply, as is the Union. Once you have a final offer, you must legally use whatever your Unions process is for accepting or rejecting an offer. In our union that is a secret ballot of every member.

This is usually the time, when an offer is crap, that workers will start industrial action. Technically you can start industrial action after 40 days of initiating barganing.

The laws of strike in Aotearoa/NZ are:

* no one can be fired for going on strike
* any form of action that is different from your usual work pattern is considered a strike (i.e. a slowdown, work to rule etc)
* your pay can be suspended whilst you work, but must be restarted as soon as you start work again
* no company may hire a new worker for the purpose of filling your job (!)
* no company may force a worker already hired to do your job, they may only ask
* companies must treat every worker who returns from a strike as though they never went on strike at all

THe important thing to remember is that most young people don't even know what a union is, they don't know what double time is (i.e. you used to get paid twice if you worked on a sunday, and time and a half on saturdays), and they defintely haven't ever gone on strike. Some people are keen, some people are unsure, and some people just don't have the confidence. I am sure though, that once one store goes on strike, other stores confidence will be greatly increased.

Anyway... that email just turned into a huge one... (-; If anyone has any questions or would like to organise solidarity with out workers once the campaign starts email me. We will soon have the first starbucks strike in the history of starbucks! The McDonalds strikes will be good too.

What we are trying to do here is a first in the world. Organising low paid workers in casualised jobs. Most unions won't touch these areas with a barge pole. The partnership/boss unions are too busy worring about protecting their little area and their jobs and many of the other unions just don't have the resources. A combination of some useful laws that we still have and the dedication of a very small group of people (there are only about 7 people in our Union involved in this campaign - and none of us have that much experience, but we are learning as we go) is what we are running on. We aren't doing things like unions in NZ do it and infact, most of them are scared of us. I'm unsure how our campaign will go, but it's better to try than let casualisation continue to erode workers rights!

If there are any anarchist union organisers out there, please send me an email on, as i would like to join any anarchist or syndicalist email loop. I can't seem to find any...


Also a member of Blackcat Anarchist Collective - (Please excuse our website, we are too busy to update it often!)

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