New Zealand: Workers McStrike over pay, homophobia

May 19, 2013
Picket outside the Britomart McDonald's store in Auckland. Photo from

McDonald's workers and supporters held a picket on May 10 outside the Britomart McDonald's store in Auckland, said activist Socialist Aotearoa activist Nico on a May 12 post at Unite news.

Nico said a group of about 30 people created a physical picket line across the two entrances of the store, holding banners and placards reading “25c won't pay the rent” (in reference to the company's pay rise offer), and “McStrike”.

The Unite union, which organises fast food workers and other previously unorganised sectors, has “come out fighting in support of migrant and gay workers who have faced discrimination in their workplace”.

Nico said: “Workers have had their hours scaled back and faced threats of disciplinary action if they stand up for their rights. Managers at the Britomart store had told one young gay worker to stop talking so gay, and if he turned anyone else gay at the store he would be disciplined.

“Homophobic and discriminatory behaviour like this has no place in New Zealand workplaces. Last nights picket was well supported by the gay community with supporters coming down to support the 'camp' themed picket.”

Nico said: “This upbeat and boisterous picket was obviously effective, as a strong and imposing police presence made itself felt not long into the demonstration.

“When it was clear that picketers were having an effect on the business inside, police took control of ensuring McDonald's continued operating ― stationing uniformed police officers at its doors.”

Nico said the New Zealand police should not provide private security for a multinational corporation in dispute with its workforce: “Unite is completely within its rights under New Zealand law to demonstrate against this company and at no time was there any illegal activity.”

Nico said, “A brisk march up Queen street to visit other fast food outlets and to the Queen Street McDonald's” lead the police to migrate to this store and “create a physical wall of blue in front of the entrance”. Striking workers and their supporters were kept well away from the store and forced across the road. Many people were pushed and shoved by police.

In response to police attacks on striking workers, Unite has called for an end to McDonald's policy of giving police a discount of at 50% at its stores.

Unite National Director Mike Treen said: “Union members have told us that they have been ordered to give the discount to police. Some members were also upset that the policy did not apply to ambulance officers whose jobs are equally important.

“I have already written to the police to complain about their aggressive and biased policing tactics during recent pickets in Auckland.”

Unite is planning a nationwide campaign against McDonald's as talks between the union and the multinational have broken down. Over the coming weeks, Nico said, McDonald's workers and their supporters will be coming out in force to challenge this company and fight for better wages and conditions.

[Visit the Unite blog for more details of the campaign.]

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