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Matt McCarten on Plans For New Union

Matt McCarten on Plans For New Union

By Carly Tawhiao, AUT journalism student

UNITE campaigner Matt McCarten aims to recruit 100,000 members for what may become New Zealand’s biggest general workers union, by the end of the year.

UNITE is riding high on its successes after recently negotiating a Collective Agreement Allowance with Restaurant Brands, national owner of fast food outlets KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks. The deal has abolished youth rates and sets the minimum hourly wage at $12. It also imposes standards for improved working conditions.

“Youth pay rates will go up between 6.7 per cent and 21.4 per cent and all other wages will go up 6.7 per cent,” McCarten says.

“We will continue to push towards a $15 minimum wage for all as our next goal," he says, attributing the result to strong union pressure and the determination of workers in the fast food industry.

Agreements are now being formulated between UNITE, the National Distribution Union and the Food Workers Union that represent what McCarten calls, “the working poor”.

“We want to turn the union into a campaign for social change,” he says, suggesting a caucus within the union as being an effective way to do this.

UNITE could then look after the interests of not only fast food employees but also other low-paid workers in cinemas, hotels, language schools, call centres, security, cleaning and postal jobs.

However, McCarten says the new union will not undermine the stronghold of the Engineering Printing & Manufacturing Union, which represents 50,000 workers in 11 industries.

McCarten says he wants the new “superunion” to remain politically independent. But although UNITE currently has no political affiliations, its future partners do, which may prove challenging in negotiations.

Talks between Unite and other the other unions will take place monthly throughout the year.


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