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Small Country’s Workers Take On Big Name Brands

Small Country’s Workers Take On Big Name Brands

SuperSizeMyPay.Com/ Unite Union Friday, December 02, 2005

Young workers in a small country at the bottom of the world are taking industrial action against multinational fast-food brands in a bid to create decent working conditions for low paid and minimum wage workers.

New Zealand KFC workers were striking Saturday as part of the http://www.SuperSizeMyPay.Com campaign to raise the minimum wage to NZ$12, abolish youth rates and gain secure working hours.

The campaign was launched by the Unite Union at last week's world-first Starbucks strike.

Simon Oosterman, coordinator for the http://www.SuperSizeMyPay.Com campaign, said the strike was significant internationally as it was organised by predominately young, casualised workers in multinational brands that have been difficult to unionise globally.

“Young workers earning as low as NZ$7.13 an hour voted 100% in favour of striking at their million dollar refurbished KFC store last week,” he said.

“Fast food chains are the highest employers of youth in New Zealand, with 60% of the workers in the striking store being under 18 years of age,” he said.

High-profile activist, author and film-maker John Pilger has offered his support in the struggle, emphasising the international importance of the strikes.

"Poverty, the oldest scourge and the modern scourge, derives in much of the world from miserable pay for long hours of work. This is unacceptable in 'poor' countries. It is a disgrace in well-off countries like New Zealand," he said.

Mr Oosterman said that despite New Zealand once having one of the highest standards of living in the OECD countries, it now has one of the highest rates of low pay, child poverty and income inequality in the western world.

“The New Zealand minimum adult minimum wage is currently at NZ$9.50, 30% lower than the Australian minimum wage. The pay of 16 and 17-year-olds is ‘downsized’ to $7.60 an hour, with those under 16 have no minimum wage despite these young workers doing exactly the same job as those over 18. Even $12 an hour is $3 an hour less than its value was 30 years ago,” he said.

“The strike has wide support, with international support from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which gained rights for farmers providing goods for Taco Bell, as well as the Canadian National Union of Public and General Employees, renown for their ground breaking Wal-Mart campaign. Broad local community support for the young KFC workers anti-youth rates strike includes the PPTA, New Zealand’s secondary school teachers union, and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.”

“Unite Union also represents workers at McDonalds, whose United States franchises are being campaigned against by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to improve the wages and working conditions for the men and women who pick its tomatoes,” said Mr Oosterman.

The New Zealand campaign also includes workers from Burger King and Pizza Hut, and will soon be broadening to include workers from Wendy’s, Subway and other multinational brands in New Zealand.


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