Labour bites

McDonald’s closes

The McDonald’s Corporation has temporarily closed its suburban Chicago headquarters for a third year in a row as fast food workers protested at the company’s annual shareholders meeting with calls for wages of at least $15 an hour and union rights.

The Fight for $15 campaign has been backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) since 2012 has had a hand in convincing some lawmakers and big employers to boost minimum wages and improve working conditions.

McDonald’s last July raised average hourly pay and began offering paid vacations and other benefits for the roughly 90,000 workers at its company operated US restaurants.

While executives and shareholders have reaped rewards via salary hikes and gains in the stock price, frontline workers say they have not shared in the wealth.

“Corporations ought to invest in workers so they don’t need food stamps, subsidised housing and other benefits,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said. (Source: Yahoo)

Union membership on the rise

In the UK new figures for trade union membership published by the Office for National Statistics show that the overall number of trade union members has increased by 36,000 to 6.49 million people. And the number of trade union members in private sector employment has increased for the fifth consecutive year.

Trade Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s great news that more people are part of a trade union. Joining a trade union is the best way to get fair pay and respect at work”.

“Employers benefit from their staff being in trade unions too, such as the workplace training unions help organise. And the economy benefits from the boost to productivity that comes from a trained and well organised workforce,” she said. (Source: TUC)

Indian Consulate unjust and unreasonable

The Fair Work Commission has ordered the Indian Consulate in Sydney to pay $10,620 to a former driver who claimed unfair dismissal last year.

The Consulate chauffeur was dismissed in March last year and subsequently petitioned the Fair Work Commission on 30 March 2015 claiming that he was dismissed after he raised concern about malpractices at the consulate, including issuing passports without conducting required police verification and misuse of etags issued for consular cars. He also claimed he was underpaid.

Ruling in favour of Mr Kumar, the Fair Work Commission found the dismissal of the applicant was unjust and unreasonable.

The commission rejected the Indian Consulate’s plea of unsatisfactory performance for Mr Kumar’s dismissal.

The Indian Consulate in Sydney has been ordered to compensate Mr Kumar for loss of wages for 12 weeks.

Transport Workers’ Union NSW Acting Secretary Richard Olsen said the order sends a message that no employer is above the law, “even if you have diplomatic immunity, you still have to play by Australian workplace laws.” (Source: SBS)

Uni walkout

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have launched a two day strike across the UK in response to falling salaries and precarious contracts after the employers’ final offer was viewed as “an insult.” The walkout comes after the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) made what it referred to as a “final offer” of a 1.1% salary increase. The University and College Union (UCU) said the deal does not come close to declining staff pay, which in real terms has dropped by 14.5% over the past seven years. The union has also pointed out that the offer pales in comparison to the 5.1% increase offered to university vice chancellors.

(Source: Education International)

Early childhood funding squeeze

Kindergartens and early childhood education centres in New Zealand will face an even bigger battle to maintain quality teaching and learning following the budget announcement that there will be no increase in funding.

This is the fifth year in a row that funding for early childhood education has effectively been frozen, says New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) National President Louise Green.

“This year funding will not even keep up with increased costs that kindergartens and ECE centres will face.

“It undermines quality learning and means that parents will likely have to dig deeper into their pockets.

“It’s ironic that the government talks of increasing teaching quality while squeezing the funding for this important area of education.

“Quality early childhood education is vital for children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds, so once again, the government’s actions do not match its rhetoric.” (Source: NZEI)

Complied by John Quessy