NEW ZEALAND’S Unite Union reached an agreement with McDonald’s last week over ending zero hour contracts and other issues in dispute with the company.

‘This is a historic agreement,’ said Unite National Director Mike Treen. Now all the of the major fast food chains have committed to ending zero hours.

‘This is the culmination of a decade long campaign for secure hours by Unite Union. It will be welcomed by tens of thousands of workers in the fast food industry and hundreds of thousands more who will ultimately benefit in other industries.

‘It represents a fundamental shift in the employment relationship of the most vulnerable workers in the country. At McDonald’s 80 per cent of hours worked over a three month period will be guaranteed.

‘A survey on hours worked will be done every three months. This means the secure hours will be able to increase over time. The guarantee will begin from July 1.

‘The company and union will review the application of this clause in March 2016. Both sides now accept that the clause will lead to greater security and regularity around rostered shifts.

‘That means we are able to call off the planned strikes at McDonald’s stores around the country.

‘In some cases it will be too late to cancel the planned gatherings so we want supporters to have a victory celebration but not interfere with customer access.

‘We haven’t finalised all details in the agreement but we are convinced there is good will on both sides to work through the remaining issues without further protests being required. The company has agreed to work with the union on how the guarantee of 80% of hours worked will impact on the regularity and security of shifts in the future.

‘There is also a ratification payment for union members only and a form for new staff at the head office owned McOpco stores to trial a system of indicating a desire to join the union. Franchise owners can also use the form.

‘A working party will look at access protocols and the breaks regime. Unite wants to thanks the people of New Zealand for their support in this fight. We would not have been able to get this agreement on our own.

‘McDonald’s decision must mean the end of zero hour contracts elsewhere in New Zealand. Unite calls on the government to turn this decision into law for other workers in the country.’

Meanwhile, in the USA, frustrated by his inability to persuade lawmakers in Albany to raise the statewide minimum wage, the Governor of New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, says he will try a different approach to raise the pay of thousands of fast-food workers.

The governor has said that he will ask the state labour commissioner to convene a panel to consider whether fast-food workers’ wages should be raised.

Cuomo, a Democrat, did not specify what he thought those workers should be paid, but he has sought to increase the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 in the rest of the state. In a campaign that started in the city and has spread across the country, fast-food workers have rallied to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

‘Nowhere is the income gap more extreme and obnoxious than in the fast-food industry, Cuomo wrote. On average, he said, the chief executives of fast-food companies made $23.8 million each in 2013, while entry-level food-service workers in New York State earn $16,920 annually.

There are about 180,000 fast-food workers in the state, and more than one-third of them work in the city. Cuomo has the authority to direct the labour commissioner to convene a panel to study the wages in a particular industry or job classification.

He said he would do that last Thursday and that the wage board would return its recommendations in about three months. The governor could then put in place a higher minimum wage for those workers without having to seek approval from the Legislature, as happened earlier this year when the minimum wage for tipped workers in restaurants was raised to $7.50 an hour.

Waiters, bartenders and other workers in restaurants and hotels who receive tips from customers have traditionally been paid lower hourly wages. The statewide minimum wage in New York is now $8.75.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, has called for a minimum wage of $13.13 an hour in the city. Cuomo originally dismissed that as too big a leap, but he endorsed the idea of a higher minimum wage in the city because of its higher cost of living.

Cuomo’s actions supporting a living wage for fast-food workers has thrown right-wing politicians and business group leaders into a frenzy. Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb, a Republican and the minority leader, accused Governor Cuomo of: ‘Undermining the Legislature and trying to govern by executive order. This is the same type of misguided approach that President Obama has proven to be ill advised and ineffective.’

Melissa Fleischut, president and chief executive of the New York State Restaurant Association, said: ‘Singling out a sector of one industry to have a higher minimum wage than all other occupations is unfair and arbitrary. The minimum wage is rightfully set by the Legislature and should affect all businesses equally.’

Ken Pokalsky, vice president of the Business Council of New York State, said: ‘Artificially inflated wages will not promote job creation. New York needs to focus on policies that enable us to produce real private sector growth.’

Governor Cuomo’s move shows how far he has traveled on the issue. Last June, he made an 11th-hour pledge to support a significantly higher minimum wage, among other liberal measures, to secure the endorsement of the Working Families Party.

Last Thursday, he was joined by leaders of the ‘Fight for $15’ campaign when he announced his call for a fast-food wage board. Fast-food workers raised their voices in unison, and the governor was right to listen to them,’ said Bill Lipton, the state director of the Working Families Party.

In his article, Governor Cuomo said many fast-food workers rely on government subsidies. Their families are twice as likely as other working families to get public assistance,’ he wrote.

‘And New York State ranks first in public assistance spending per fast-food worker, $6,800 a year. That amounts to a $700 million annual burden on taxpayers,’ he wrote.

‘New York can set fast-food workers on a path out of poverty, ease the burden on taxpayers and create a new national standard,’ he concluded.

The $15 Now! campaign said Governor Cuomo’s plan will dramatically raise pay for hundreds of thousands of fast-food workers across New York state. This is what happens when workers join together, go on strike, and demand $15.

‘Our two and a half year movement for $15 and union rights has changed the politics of the country, and made $15 a baseline for what working people need to support themselves and their families.

‘In response, the governor of New York has convened a three-person Wage Board to decide on a substantial increase in fast-food worker pay.

‘What happens next is up to us. Let’s make New York the first state in the union with a $15 wage for fast-food workers.’