Freedom of expression @ work – a short interview with Julie Tyler

Julie Tyler

Julie Tyler

Friday January 4, Burger King held a disciplinary meeting against Dunedin employee Julie Tyler. Her alleged misconduct was the posting of the following sentence on a friend’s Facebook wall, ‘Real jobs don’t underpay and overwork like BK does’. Julie’s union, Unite, her friends, and other workers successfully built up public opposition against BK before the initial disciplinary meeting took place.

At the initial meeting Burger King adjourned the case until today, saying they were seeking further legal advice. During the adjournment BK’s censorship of staff members became a national media issue. BK New Zealand’s own Facebook page was jammed by comments of protest. Other Facebook groups – which attracted heavy traffic – were created and used in Julie’s defence. An informational picket was put on at Julie’s store today during the second disciplinary meeting. As a result the company has threatened legal action against Unite Union but Unite has replied that it will not be silenced.

The case not only raises issues surrounding the use of social media, it has also drawn attention to very basic working class issues such as freedom of expression and the right of workers to take action. Later on today we had the opportunity to have a quick word with Julie about how the case has unfolded so far:

[Read more…]

BULLIED YOUR BOSS LATELY?

Don Franks

According to a feature in today’s Dominion Post, “one in five Kiwi workers suffer from workplace bullying, one of the worst rates in the world”.

The claim’s made by a Minister of Labour commissioned university survey, released on 16/4/2010.

A joint university research team – from Auckland, Waikato, Massey and London – polled more than 1700 workers from the health, education, hospitality and travel sectors asking how frequently they were exposed to “negative acts” at work.

Overall 17.8 per cent of respondents were identified as victims of bullying.

The international range was claimed to be between 5 per cent and 20 per cent. [Read more…]

Strike rights threatened

Mike Kay

A Private Member’s Bill introduced by the National Party MP Tau Henare has been drawn from the ballot to be debated in Parliament. The Bill proposes to amend the Employment Relations Act as follows:

“A strike may not proceed under this Act, unless the question has been submitted to a secret ballot of those employees who are members of the union that would become parties to the strike if it proceeded.”

The Council of Trade Unions has announced its “support in principle” for the bill, “as it largely reflects current practice.”

The British experience may be of some use in analysing the effect of secret ballots. Over there, the law has required a secret ballot prior to strike action for nearly 30 years. I asked an official with the Postal section of the Communication Workers Union his opinion on the issue. This is his response: [Read more…]

A step forward

from The Spark March 2009

Finally, nearly a decade into the 21st century women will be legally entitled to breastfeeding breaks at work. From 1 April employers will have to allow women this right and provide a suitable space.  The breaks are unpaid – unless otherwise agreed – so breastfeeding women will be penalised by loss of wages or having to extend their hours at work.

On its own the law may not deliver much of an improvement for women trying to juggle work and childcare. Few workplaces have childcare facilities, and few are very family friendly.

Despite these shortcomings, allowing breastfeeding at work is a step towards recognising the needs of working mothers.