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Takeaway Social Distancing Debacle Is Only Half The Story


The social distancing debacles witnessed outside fast food outlets is only half the story according to Unite Union.

“Members have been contacting us all day yesterday and today about the lack of physical distancing inside. It is supposed to be at least one metre at all times but that went out the window along with the first orders for many.” said National Secretary Gerard Hehir.

In one case, when an employee challenged his manager about the breach of Level 3 rules he was told he was not a “team player” and that speed was more important than social distancing.

The blatant breaches started even before Level 3. In this TVNZ news clip about all the safety precautions being taken workers can clearly be seen in the background completely ignoring social distancing rules. Under Level 4 they should have been 2 metres apart - they were not even one metre.

It should be no surprise that if such carelessness is shown in public that behind the closed doors even worse is taking place.

Unite sent a list of concerns last week to all the companies we deal with (McDonalds, RBL - KFC, Carl’s Jr & Pizza Hut, Wendys and Burger King), as well as releasing it publicly This clearly outlined the potential breaches that we have now seen.

There were three major issues raised. The first was the clear lack of 2 metre physical distancing with customers at the drive-through windows. Only Wendys got it right with a simple solution of a table where orders can be placed and the window slid shut before the car driver winds their window down and takes the food. None of the other companies would adopt this simple and safe method. Instead workers are required to hand food directly to customers in breach of level 3 rules. “Barriers” at drive-through windows are mostly worse than useless. They don’t protect against airborne droplets and actually force workers to bend down closer to customers to see and hand out food.

The second issue was accepting cash. RBL and Wendys have said no cash, Burger King says it is ensuring cash handling doesn’t lead to cross contamination while McDonalds solution was disposable gloves. Change handled by earlier customers is being handed out with ready to eat food - the problem and the solution is blindingly obvious.

The third issue was physical distancing in the stores not being possible, or being breached because the employer wants orders processed quicker. Within a few hours those concerns came true.

Unite’s main ongoing concern is the workers inside being forced to break physical distancing rules, between themselves and with customers. Unite has been sending reports to Worksafe and will continue to do so daily, as well as to the companies concerned.

“But, as we have all seen today, the companies are simply not doing what they promised and what is required by law. The government and Worksafe need to step up. Ticking checkboxes on paper plans is not enough.”

“McDonald’s told us their drive through practice, where they breach physical distancing requirements, was approved by Worksafe. We have asked Worksafe for confirmation, but have received nothing.”

“Yesterday we sent multiple complaints to Worksafe with photo and video evidence of fast food restaurants breaching level 3 requirements. We haven’t heard back from Worksafe regarding those breaches. If we are going to ease restrictions, then surely for the safety of everyone, the new rules should be strictly enforced. Where are Worksafe?”

“All of these stores have sophisticated camera systems inside and out. Worksafe can quickly audit, spot check and verify complaints by requiring the companies to give them access to these systems as required. If these employers are following their own plans and the Level 3 requirements then they should have no problem giving Worksafe access to the footage. That needs to happen now.”

“Small takeaway, cafe or restaurant owners that haven’t opened will be gutted looking at those pictures today, wondering why they are missing out on income while large chains flagrantly breach the rules. How is it that these large chains, with all their supposed systems and processes have managed to cock this up so badly and what is the government going to do about it?”

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