Burger King union members in Palmerston North picket their resturant, during the nation-wide strike in 2017

After being verbally attacked by a customer at Rangitikei Burger King recently, a worker had dog faeces thrown at them. Left shaken and frightened from the event, she was not offered the opportunity to go home by her Area Manager, who didn’t turn up to assist until two hours after the event. When she still felt unable to work the next day, she was required to use up a day from her annual leave. As a shift manager she also didn’t feel confident to close the store down herself when the incident happened and there was no help … why?

Burger King has a long history of poor training and ignoring health and safety issues.

Each summer Unite Union organisers remind Burger King to ensure that their cooling and ventilation systems have been serviced to cope with the upcoming heat. Despite the warning we consistently have many reports of temperatures of over 30 degrees in stores across the country. In these situations Burger King consistently puts the needs of the business before the needs of its workers by not maintaining their ventilation and cooling systems properly and taking no action until members call the Union.

It’s not just the predictable weather events that Burger King are unprepared for. After the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Kaikoura on November 14 2016 which also shook Wellington, retail and food outlets were advised to close. Burger King staff were forced to enter buildings that had not been checked by engineers, including the historic old bank building built in 1913 which now houses Burger King Manners Mall. Staff were made to work in unsanitary conditions with water contamination, meaning they were unable to wash their hands, go to the toilet or serve drinks.

And then, more recently, during the worst terrorist attack ever seen in New Zealand, staff at Burger King Linwood were made to continue working despite being in direct line of sight of the mosque and a worker informing management that they had seen a gunman. The store didn’t shut down because the manager running the shift did not feel they had the authority to do so. Later in the day Police forced the store to shut down.

The most recent event at Rangitikei St comes after Burger King AGREED in bargaining to implement an independent electronic health and safety incident recording system that is accessible to ALL staff. 7 months after that agreement, Burger King has still failed to implement this system.

What do we know:

  1. Many shift managers do not appear to have been trained to file incident reports.
  2. The current incident reporting system is only accessible to managers.
  3. Burger King shift managers are consistently told that they need the authorisation of the Area Manager to close the store down, even in urgent situations.

The Health and Safety act states that employers must eliminate or minimise health and safety risks, as well as ensure that the health and safety of staff is not put at risk. If managers aren’t given the right training, resources and authority then they are put in a position where they can’t meet their health and safety obligations.

Unite Union strongly urges Burger King to immediately implement the independent electronic recording system, implement a thorough health and safety training program for managers and ensure that health and safety reps are elected in every workplace. Workers safety needs to be put ahead of the relentless drive for profit.


For more information, contact your union organiser or Burger King lead organiser Jasmine Taankink - jasmine@unite.org.nz.

Submitted by

Hannah Shelton Agar

Written 26/7/2019