Unite Union, which represents fast food workers in New Zealand, announced on November 18 it had reached an agreement with fast food giant McDonald's, which will see tens of thousands of its current and former staff receive payment for miscalculated holiday pay.
Unite’s national director, Mike Treen told Green Left Weekly that McDonald's was one of the companies caught out by faulty payroll systems that were “not fit for purpose and therefore not legally compliant when calculating holiday pay”.
McDonald's has agreed to go back ten years to November 1, 2009, to fix the underpayments. Other fast food companies have only gone back six years, which they see as the maximum they are legally obliged to do.
“It is possible that every person who worked for McDonald's after November 2009 is owed some money. We believe that as many as 60,000 staff and millions of dollars could be involved,” said Treen.
Unite alerted McDonald's and other companies it deals with to the problem back in February 2015.
According to the union, the New Zealand Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) has allowed companies like Restaurant Brands, who were alerted to the problem at the same time as McDonald's, to limit their liabilities to only six years. MBIE also promised to audit all the major employers in New Zealand but this has proved to be false, according to the union.
The union believes that 90% of private-sector workers will get nothing unless the government takes some action. Treen told GLW: “No employer who has not voluntarily undertaken an external audit can claim to be compliant with the law. Failing to act now constitutes wage theft.”
Unite has set up a website Stop Wage Theft to pressure the government to bring unions, employers and payroll providers together to come up with a solution that sees everyone paid back, not just the lucky few.