Unite union protesting today outside Wendy's

The Unite union will protest at the new Wendy's outlet in South Dunedin today.

The protest, which starts at 11am, is against ''zero-hour'' contracts - a term usually referring to casual workers who are not contractually guaranteed hours but who are often expected to be available for work at all times and not accept work elsewhere.

Labour has been pushing for a ban on such contracts. National MPs say a ban would be an ''overreaction''.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister and National MP Michael Woodhouse could not provide a response yesterday, his Wellington office said.

Mr Woodhouse has previously said a more measured approach was appropriate, such as making it impossible for employers to require workers to be constantly ''on-call'' or to block them from seeking other work.

Wendy's CEO Danielle Lendich said when contacted yesterday Wendy's did not use zero-hour contracts, did not roster on workers for anything less than 10 hours a week without their consent, and that ''Unite are targeting Wendy's for their own political gain.''

It is sometimes difficult to say whether a contract is a ''zero-hour'' one or not, because ''in terms of legal classification, it falls between the stools,'' Prof Paul Roth, of the University of Otago Faculty of Law, said yesterday.

According to Wendy's NZ, 44 non-management workers are employed at the new Wendy's in Dunedin.

Unite said the ''average staffing level for a Wendy's store is around 25 [non-management workers]'' and predicts the Dunedin outlet will use workers' zero-hour contracts as a tool to ''slash jobs'' once the opening rush calms down.

''They don't even have to use the 90-day trial period,'' Unite South Island spokesman Ben Peterson said in a press release.

''They can slash jobs just by changing the roster.''

Ms Lendich said: ''We're not planning on dismissing anybody willy nilly.''

''The numbers of employees vary across stores. Dunedin is a brand new store and is a university town so we don't know where the numbers will settle,'' she said.

Mr Peterson was at the outlet this week recruiting workers to the union.

Unite has been negotiating with Wendy's over contractual issues, including zero-hour contracts, which resulted in ''some progress around smaller issues'', but not on zero-hour contracts, he said.

The union has been involved in organising actions around the country against zero-hour contracts.

''At this point, we're not calling [the protest] a strike,'' he said.

''We'll be in store talking to members. But I'm not saying that [a strike] won't happen either.''

carla.green@odt.co.nz

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