Burger King banned from hiring migrants

Well now. This is interesting.

Stuff?reports: quote:

The company that owns Burger King New Zealand has been barred from hiring migrant workers for a year after under-paying a staffer.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) imposed the ban after the company breached the Minimum Wage Act 1983.

Unite Union national secretary Gerard Hehir said the company paid a salaried manager less than minimum wage. The employee was a Unite member. end quote.

Well, first of all, that was incredibly stupid. They paid a ‘salaried manager’, who was also a member of a union, less than minimum wage. If you ever wanted to cause trouble in your organisation, I guarantee, this is the way to do it. quote:

“This is a large, high profile corporation and shows that this is not just a problem for small restaurants and fruit pickers ? it goes right across most sectors and company sizes” Hehir said.

Burger King New Zealand owner Antares Restaurant Group?was on Wednesday added to MBIE’s stand-down list for businesses that have breached minimum employment standards. It will be unable to hire migrant workers until July 17, 2019. end quote.

Well, there are a number of things to consider here.

The next time you go to Burger King, you will probably have no trouble making yourself understood when you order your burger and fries. That is if they have anyone working there. It is not as if non-migrant workers are usually beating down the doors of Burger King to get hired.

Then there is the knowledge that some workers may lose their jobs because of this. quote:

The ban applies to 82 of the company’s branches. The Auckland Airport restaurant is owned by another company and is unaffected.

Antares cannot support any work visa applications for the period. As a result, five employees risk losing their jobs at Burger King before the end of the year.

Five more migrants yet to start at Burger King were also affected, with two work visa applications withdrawn and three others “given additional time to find a new job offer”. end quote.

This is unfair. It will affect other employees who would not have been affected otherwise and have done nothing wrong. Their visas may be affected because of this.

But the thing that is strange about the ban on employing migrant workers is that the complainant was not a migrant worker. quote:

However, Antares was “trying to understand” why MBIE?had imposed a restriction on employing migrant workers, as Desai was “a Kiwi and not on a work visa”.

“We do not believe this issue should have any bearing on people’s ability to obtain work visas in New Zealand and we are in discussions with the ministry to understand their perspective.” end quote.

So Burger King is not allowed to employ migrant workers for a year because they underpaid… a worker who is a New Zealand resident. I am scratching my head over that one.

Forcing the company to pay any arrears owed to the complainant is fair enough. But to ban the company from employing migrants when most of their workforce will come from the migrant pool is going to be very damaging to the business. Burger King will really struggle because of this. quote:

The MBIE spokeswoman said Kiwi workers were protected by the employment standards’ regulatory and penalty regime, while recruiting migrant workers was an “additional privilege” for employers.

“We are putting constraints on that to ensure that non-compliant employers can’t have ready access to the international labour market as well,” she said. end quote.

Even though it was a resident employee who was ‘exploited’? Makes sense, doesn’t it? quote.

“When the breach is particularly serious, a banning order can be put on employers and this can prevent them from employing anyone ? local or otherwise???for a period of up to 10 years.” end quote.

I would have thought that such bans would only be applied in cases where employers have specifically exploited migrant workers, and there have been plenty of cases of that. This is a case of a salaried worker who slipped under the minimum wage rate as a result of working overtime, and it is possible that this could have been inadvertent, rather than specific exploitation.

The implications for Burger King are huge. In an industry where staff turnover is high and wages are low, to be banned from using migrant workers will be a devastating blow to their workforce. Another piece of evidence about how ‘business friendly’ our government really is.

So the next time you go to Burger King and order your burger and fries, you may find it much easier to be understood than before. You may also find yourself in a two hour queue because they can’t find people to work for them.

The cost of burgers will have to increase because of a backlog of cases of salaried employees claiming they were underpaid at some time in the past.

Who would want to be in business these days?