Restaurant Association of New Zealand

OPINION - Stand By For More Aggressive Union Activity

Three of New Zealands more active and aggressive unions (The Service and Food Workers Union, The Unite Union and the National Distribution Union) have agreed to merge, making the yet to be named Union, the countrys biggest private sector Union. By Neville Waldren

It has been identified that one of the new Unions focuses will be the hospitality sector where just 5 per cent of workers are members of a Union.

Unite Union and the National Distribution Union have been ably represented by Matt McCarten and Laila Harre. Matt has grown his Unions membership five fold in the last two years; the catalyst for this success was the fast food campaign Supersize my Pay.

Laila Harre was not so successful when she confronted the might of Woolworths who failed to roll over to her demands for pay increases for supermarket workers.

The merged Union will have a membership of 54,000 and Matt McCarten is on record as saying he believed that membership should double in 12 months.

The new Union will start with a combined income of $15 million/year giving it an economic base to drive some of its ideals.

Our fragmented restaurant/caf market generally makes it uneconomic for a Union to focus on these businesses, but the Unions are smart and, as a starting point, I believe they will combine a number of businesses under a Collective Employment Agreement umbrella.

The issues, I forecast, will be remuneration, enhanced benefits (such as sick/bereavement leave) enhanced service entitlements, increased benefits for working on statutory holidays and late shifts, travel/tool allowances, increased pay when working at weekends.

You can expect your renewed focus will not be just on producing food and service of excellence for your customer and making a profit to pay your overheads, but possibly also addressing a more militant and active Union movement.