Would You Like A Future With That? The Burgerization of McZealand, Up To $16,000 A Head (updated)

Update: The Dom Post is carrying a story today saying “McDonald’s restaurants will receive up to $16,000 a year of taxpayers’ money every time it recruits a beneficiary under a partnership with Work and Income.That’s potentially a $112 million bill for the tax payer.

New Zealand already has the world’s greatest number of McDonalds restaurants per $GDP and the second highest number per capita (the first is the United States) add to that New Zealand’s dismal record in obseity – third highest in the OECD – and many will ask does the country really need more fast food joints.

One time truck stop waitress Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett is citing the relationship with the fast-food giant as an example of the Government’s commitment to getting beneficiaries into jobs but a long-term unemployed person could gain an employer a $16,000 subsidy over 12 months more than $300 a week.

Seems like an awful amount of money to be spending at a time when cut backs are being made in higher education courses.

On 20 May 2007 John Key promised:

“If I have the great honour of becoming Prime Minister of this country then I want to leave a legacy too.

My legacy will be a strong New Zealand economy with higher wages, lower taxes and greater competitiveness. My legacy will be a country that young New Zealanders want to stay and work in.That’s what a National government will give you.”

Contrast that with recent reports in the papers:

  • Stuff.co.nz Thousands of beneficiaries could soon be flipping burgers under a deal between Work and Income and McDonald’s.
  • NZ HeraldEducation Minister Anne Tolley says there is no more money to fund extra places in polytechnics during the recession. Between 6000 and 8000 students would be turned away because of the Government cap on places in the following year.” (ed. but there’s 7000 jobs going at Maccas)

  • Jobless people looking to upskill through polytechnics could be turned away if the Government does not lift the enrolment cap.”

Back in May the Department of Work and Income struck up a deal with global fast food giant McDonalds to provide 6,000 new jobs in New Zealand over the next three years.

Any ideas other than McDonald’s?

At the time MP Jacinda Arden asked the minister of youth affairs Paula Bennett this question across the floor of parliament:

“Will the Minister adopt any ideas other than those generated by McDonald’s, such as those ideas generated by the Youth Jobs Summit I hosted last week, including greater investment in skills and training, lifting the cap for tertiary education, and introducing a guaranteed employment or training scheme for the long-term unemployed under the age of 25 years, given that the Minister sees the power of working together to create creative solutions?”

I think her question must’ve gone unanswered.

That is until today, when our worst fears were confirmed with the news about 7,000 (ed. where did the extra 1,000 come from? ) McDonalds jobs are to be advertised and trained for by the Department of Work and Income over the next over 5 years (ed. huh? I thought it was 3 years )

Is this the best they could come up with and is a job with McDonalds a career for life which will give all Kiwis higher wages?

Is this THE initiative that will give “young New Zealanders a country that they’ll want to stay and work in” or just a cynical attempt to hack a few digits off the unemployment figures?

Last year Chantelle Coup, age 18 and who now lives in Australia, was awarded $15,000 after being constructively dismissed from the McDonalds in Kaiapoi for joining the union ‘Unite’ in August 2007. Chantelle, who was 17 at the time, had her hours cut and she was bullied into resigning. Chantelle later said that she’d like to use the money to pay off her student debts.

At the time Unite’s national director Mike Treen said in a statement that his union often had problems with McDonald’s franchise operators, saying that they often took the decision of their employees to join the union as a personal affront.

The employer was also found to have been destructive in their dealings with Unite Union and to have used undue influence to get their employees to resign from the union.

The restaurant manager was described in the Employment Relations Authority report to have been in a “position of significant influence” over their work. The boss, Patrick Cornish, was described as a “father figure”, and it was acknowledged that McDonalds Kaiapoi is “part of a large and powerful organisation.”

The workers there were all young and none of them had guaranteed days or hours of work. This fact, coupled with pressure from the manager was found to have pushed a number of staff to resign from the union.

“That is one reason we want security of hours included in their new collective agreement with McDonald’s.”

Unite also stepped up its campaign to end bullying at McDonalds restaurants and supported staff at four sites to stop work to protest a contract that allowed their employer to use their shift roster as a form of bullying and control. They cited cases where a McDonald’s manager demanded that a seventeen-year-old girl stay and finish her shift after her foot was run over whilst working at a drive through and many occasions where workers were pressured to work two or three eight hour shifts in a row with no breaks or being rostered off.

Patrick Cornish said he would appeal the decision and file a new case with the Employment Court. Chantelle would have to return from Australia where she now lives to attend the hearing. Mr Cornish did have a range of other options open to him including making an out of court settlement. No such case seems to have been heard at the Employment Court. but neither has there been any news about Chantelle receiving her compensation.

In October 2008 Unite organised a series of lunch and dinner strikes in Auckland and Hamilton at around the time that McDonalds Corporation announced a third quarter profit of $1.07 billion. The rolling strikes in some of NZ’s poorest suburbs were used to put pressure on the company to match what competitor ‘Restaurant Brands’ (KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut) pays union members. Full time managers and crew at Restaurant Brands are paid $20.80 to $174.40 a week more than McDonald’s workers. Mike Treen said:

“It’s disgusting the world largest fast food corporation is gloating over its soaring profits while the majority of its crew are stuck on minimum wage and managers are paid less than $15 an hour. It is however a true reflection of the world economy with the rich getting richer and making sure the poor stay poor.

“There have now been more than 35 strikes at 24 different restaurants and we plan to escalate this campaign until our 1200 union members at McDonald’s get secure hours and decent pay rises.”

Wage rates for 16 and 17 year olds are 80% of the adult rate, i.e.$10 an hour but that rate is supposed to have been abolished at all the employers organized by Unite including McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, and the major movie theatre chains.

Is McDonalds really the best company to be pouring the future of New Zealand’s youth into and will it do anything to address New Zealand’s much lamented low wage economy or its expanding waist line.

I seriously doubt it.

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