Fair Work agrees to undermine fast food award

Unionists protest outside Mcdonald's on May 15 before Fair Work changed the fast food award award. Photo: May 1 Movement

On May 19, the full bench of the Fair Work Commission ruled in favour of McDonald’s bid to waive overtime rates and set shifts for part-timers under the fast food award.

On May 5, the commission knocked back the employers’ bid to undermine the award. Incredibly, this bid had the backing of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA). The Australian Industry Group (AI Group) represented McDonald’s in the commission.

The commission’s new ruling on the award includes limiting employees’ ability to take annual leave. The changes affect 214,000 workers, the bulk of which are young people working for Domino’s and McDonald’s.

The AI Group argued that industrial relations reform “has an important role to play in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis” and that “fresh thinking” was needed.

Several unions had been campaigning for the ACTU and SDA to drop their support for the award changes. The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) described it as an attack on workers’ rights that would only benefit billion-dollar multinationals. The Victorian Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union also criticised the ACTU for supporting it.

On May 15 in Sydney, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney Branch, RAFFWU and the May 1 Movement organised a car convoy in Sydney to protest the ACTU-SDA support for McDonald’s anti-worker push.

More than 25 cars travelled from Thornleigh Oval to a nearby McDonalds in north Sydney where they gathered to chant, “When workers’ rights are under attack what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

The car convoy showcased placards including: “Touch one, touch all!” and “Australian Industry Group [AI Group], SDA [Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association] and ACTU: Withdraw application to alter award.”

Earlier, Paul McAleer speaking for the May 1 Movement, said the award changes would “attack the conditions of young, low-paid and vulnerable fast-food workers,” many who only earn $8 or $9 an hour.

“The AI Group and the SDA are using COVID-19 as an excuse to push through the same attacks on part-time fast-food workers that RAFFWU fought and defeated in the Fair Work Commission in February 2019,” McAleer said. He said the award changes would “effectively casualise part-time work”.

Now, tens of thousands of award-reliant fast food workers will lose their set shifts and instead be rostered at the whim of management on a weekly basis, he said.

Rank-and-file RAFFWU member and a casual hospitality worker Lily O’Sullivan told Green Left that “a lot of young and vulnerable workers will be affected” and she urged people to stand up for their rights by joining their union.

RAFFWU Sydney organiser Loukas Kakogiannis explained that the changes “seek to completely rewrite the definition of part-time work” which is fixed rosters with set days and times.

“The SDA and the ACTU should be ashamed of lining up on the side of [Attorney General] Christian Porter and McDonald’s to attack fast food workers,” he said.

“These changes have nothing to do with COVID-19. They have everything to do with giving multinational behemoths, like McDonald’s, flexibility to exploit their workers.”

May 1 Movement organiser Robert Car said: “If the award alteration for fast food workers is successful, a precedent will be set to degrade the pay and conditions of retail workers, nurses, public servants, firies and transport workers.

“We want unions to support young workers by helping them maintain their work conditions rather than be complicit in undermining them.”

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