From the TUC

New Zealand union takes on “Bitter King” and wins

07 Sep 2012, By Guest

A high profile dispute between the New Zealand union Unite and Burger King, has been settled – with the union saying that it was ‘very pleased with the outcome’.

The union’s strategy, which included demonstrations outside the fast food giant’s sites and re-branding BK as “Bitter King”, showed that management attempts to deny workers the voice a union would bring were designed to prevent workers exercising their rights at work. Details of the deal remain confidential until a joint union-company notice is displayed in every Burger King site followed up by a letter to union members explaining the outcome.

The Unite union claimed that Burger King had pressurised employees to leave the union after the union had accused the company of anti-union practices by setting managers progress targets for achieved union resignations. Unite revealed documents showing that Burger King managers were congratulated for reducing union membership. Some workers said they have come under pressure in various ways to resign union membership, including one employee who was told they would not be promoted if they were associated with the union.

Unite said 200 members resigned in the three months the alleged campaign took place.

“The way they achieved it was through bullying and intimidation,” said Unite union’s  Mike Treen.

Unite union said Burger King was carrying out an anti-union campaign to cover up the worst examples of exploitation of vulnerable, young and migrant workers, was also unfairly treating migrant workers and underpaying its staff. The union also claimed Burger King was locking fire exits. The union said legal action against Burger King would cost the company hundreds of thousands of NZ dollars in penalties and legal action would be taken against individual managers and area managers for breaches of workers’ rights.

However, both parties now say they have resolved the dispute with Mike Treen saying that he can once again recommend New Zealanders to patronise their stores. The details of the resolution will remain confidential. Treen said the union would be “very pleased with the outcome. In addition the parties will work in good faith to promptly resolve any individual employee cases.”

Treen said he was  confident that Burger King was committed to building a positive environment and become an employer of choice for its employees.