Labour hits out at 'unjust' KFC policy

Labour is calling for a Human Rights Commission investigation into an 'unjust' KFC policy that has led to the dismissal of disabled workers.
Labour is calling for a Human Rights Commission investigation into an 'unjust' KFC policy that has led to the dismissal of disabled workers.

The Labour Party is calling on the Human Rights Commission to investigate concerns that workers with disabilities are losing their jobs at KFC because of its restructuring policy.

The Unite Union said disabled workers had been let go in the past year because of a KFC policy for all staff to be capable of all duties.

Labour's social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the Human Rights Commission should investigate the concerns about the fast food chain.

"This catch-all policy is unfair and unjust. Social responsibility is a guiding principle for smart business globally. Restaurants in small towns rely on the engagement of their local communities. This one-size-fits-all approach won't go down well with workers in Greymouth or Oamaru," she said.

"I have first hand experience working with young people with disabilities. In fact, I trained two people at KFC in these very roles. Each of them had enormous dedication to their job and the team.

The idea that a policy like this would now put them out of the job is devastating."

Jacinda Ardern at the 2012 Labour Party conference. Photo / Michael Craig
Jacinda Ardern at the 2012 Labour Party conference. Photo / Michael Craig

Unite Union national director of organising Mike Treen said the first case appeared when two Hutt Valley stores merged last September resulting in two disabled workers being made redundant.

He believed stores in the Hutt, Greymouth, Motueka, Oamaru, Papanui in Christchurch, and Alexandra in central Otago had been similarly reorganised.

Restaurant Brands general manager of people and performance Jennifer Blight refused to answer questions about the policy, apparently called "all star level" staffing.

"These (questions) pertain to employment-related issues between Restaurant Brands and employees, and as such are matters that we do not discuss publicly."

Jared Dixon, who has autism, lost his job at KFC in Greymouth.

He had worked there for 16 years doing three hours a week - making the local newspaper in 2006 when the company presented him with a long-service award for 10 years on the job.

Mr Dixon's family believed he was never given a chance to show he could do the tasks.

"We were very upset for Jared losing a role he loved and, from all feedback, did very well," said a family spokesman.

"Being autistic, Jared is extremely habitual so the sudden change to his weekly routine after 16 years of working for KFC was devastating."

Douglas McRae said he loved his years at Park Ave KFC in Wellington.

"I got a letter to say I wouldn't be going to the new KFC, and I wasn't very happy with it.

"I loved my job, I was supporting my wife and I was thinking, 'what am I going to do now?' I miss all my friends."

Mr Treen said he intended to get advice from the Human Rights Commission.

"The policy has to be stopped. If a major company can get away with it then workers with disabilities will have no chance."

- Herald on Sunday and APNZ staff

- APNZ

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