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May 27, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Armed police confront striking fast food workers

Fast food workers, who were on strike the weekend before last, came face-to-face with armed police on the picket line.


Workers from KFC, Carl’s Jr and Pizza Hut stores, all owned by Restaurant Brands, were on strike May 17 through 19 to protest what their union believes are low pay and unfair staffing practices.


The contract changes proposed by Restaurant Brands which are under dispute include a pay increase that does not match the minimum wage increase, a reduction of breaks from 15 minutes to ten minutes, and failure to address understaffing issues in stores.


While many of the stores across New Zealand were closed for the entire three days, it is not believed any Wellington store was forced to close entirely. Other locations, while technically still open, were blockaded by striking workers to prevent cars accessing the drive-thru and car park.


Some of these picket lines were met with an armed police presence. A photo posted on social media by a Senior Organiser at Unite Union in Auckland showed NZ Police at KFC Pakuranga, armed with both tasers and handguns, escorting customers through the picket line. Salient can confirm that police present at other locations were armed with tasers, but cannot confirm if handguns were present elsewhere. Reports suggest that handguns were not present in the Wellington region.


A KFC Pakuranga worker told Salient that the police presence was extremely intimidating, especially in an area with a high Māori and Pacific population. “I just want to get paid enough,” they said, “and not worry about getting shot.”


Unions Wellington issued a statement saying, “Armed New Zealand Police officers have no place on a picket line. It is not OK for police to take sides in an industrial dispute.”


Unite Union agreed last week to a Restaurant Brands request to begin mediation with a third party over the dispute.

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