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Matt McCarten Speech: The Great Rip Off!

The Great Rip Off! - Matt McCarten Speech

Unite Auckland President’s Address to the SuperSizeMyPay.com rally

2pm Sunday 12 February 2006 Auckland Town Hall

Key Points

Restaurant Industry has halved wages in 20 years Unite to support industrial actions at stores over the next month March 18 picked as Day of Protest Supports Sue Bradford’s Bill to End Youth Rates Will consider a Citizens Initiated Referendum on $12 Minimum Wage

There comes a time in our lives when we have to make a stand for justice. Today is one of those moments.

As you can see by the video we have just seen hundreds of minimum wage workers in Auckland’s fast food restaurant industry have been putting themselves on the line and engaging in ongoing action in support of very modest claims from their transnational employer.

These workers have done incredibly well. The four major employers, McDonalds, Restaurant Brands, Wendy’s and Burger King have now all agreed to bargaining for a union agreement for their employees. Therefore the SupersizeMyPay.com campaign now moves into a critical stage.

The SupersizeMyPay.com campaign was set up a few weeks ago by our Unite union to help fast food workers to get a union agreement around three central claims:

A minimum wage at $12 per hour (Most of adult workers are on $9.50) Abolish Youth Rates (Workers under18 are expected to do the same work as adults and should be paid the same) Secure hours of work (Most workers never know how many hours they will get each week)

For these workers to have any hope to secure these goals they will need the support of the rest of the community. And that’s why we are here today.

I want to thank the members of Unite to coming here today. I know that many of you were actively obstructed and in some cases prevented from coming here today. But you came anyway. I want to also thank our guest speakers and the members of the public who have come to support these workers.

I know that many of you are required to be back at work by 4pm today. So as an example to the rest of our guest speakers today I will keep to my 5 minutes and get right to the point.

This fight is not just about fast food workers in New Zealand but all low paid workers. Their fight for a basic wage, equal pay for equal work, and some security of work is a fight as an example to the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders in the same situation. 400,000 adult New Zealanders earn less than $12 an hour. That doesn’t include under 18 year olds.

The problem is theses employers first decide what return they will give to their investors and then screw the price of their product to the lowest amount possible. Workers in the fast food industry have not been unionised for a generation and it shows.

I was the president of the union for fast food workers in 1984. Three years ago I and my other Unite colleagues set up our union to fight for you and other workers.

The legacy that my generation has left to this generation is appalling. But rather than me telling you what you already know. Let me just give you the facts. They speak for themselves. The following figures are taken from the lowest wage rates applying in Fast Food restaurant sector applying in 1984 and then put into today’s equivalent rates.

A lowest full time worker got $510 a week. Now it’s $380. A drop of $130. That’s 25% less. The lowest hourly rate paid was $13.10 an hour. Now its $9.50. A drop of $3.60 each hour worked. That’s 28% less. Any overtime was paid $19.65 for the first three hours and then it was $26.20 after that. Now it’s just a flat rate of $9.50. That’s over $10 an hour difference. A 50% drop. Full-timers working on Saturday or a Sunday now get $9.50 an hour. They used to get $19.65 an hour on Saturday (a drop of over 50%) and on Sunday got $26.20. Almost three times more than they get now. Hourly workers got $14.35 an hour on Saturdays and $19.65 on Sundays. Many workers now have to work six and seven days a week. For that they get guaranteed two hours work at $9.50 for each hour. In 1984 you got a minimum $104.80 for walking through the door on these days as you had to be paid for four hours. Even if a worker now worked fours as well it would only be $38. That’s a third of what you used to be paid. The shift allowances for working evenings, the travel allowance of over $9 a day and laundry allowance of $5.55 a day have all gone. Guaranteed service pay rises each year is also a thing of the past. Even the 4 hours guaranteed hours of work have slipped to two hours and three hours. What does this mean to us now? Well, take a fulltime worker on 40 hours a week Wednesday to Sunday. This person got $782 a week. That’s $40,665 a year. For the same hours this person gets $380 a week today. That’s less than $20,000 a year. Less than half than they used to get. Take a part time worker working 5 hours a day, Wednesday to Sunday. They used to get $426. Now it’s $238. A 44% drop. Finally take a 17 year old working in the weekends for 10 hours. They used to get $181. Now they get $76. A difference of $115 for the same hours and a 58% cut.

I know this is a lot of information to absorb. But the picture is clear. The same companies that paid these amounts then, have cut the wages by between a third and in some cases two thirds. On average fast food workers have had their wages halved.

Of course we can’t change this travesty overnight but we need to make a start.

Later in this meeting we will ask you to:

Support the SupersizeMyPay.com actions over the next month in fighting for these claims. Call on all political parties to support Sue Bradford’s bill before parliament next week to end youth rates. Endorse a day of Action on March 18 in support of the campaign. Consider forcing the Government to hold a national referendum on our three claims.

Our cause is just.

We either have a country that believes the every New Zealander has to the right to earn a decent living or we allow employers to screw the maximum out of their workers to maximise the profits of their shareholders.

Be strong, be united

Kia Kaha

Tena Kotau Tena Kotau.

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