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KFC’s Double Down when it first launched in 2011, and KFC workers striking in 2017 (Photos: Getty Images)
KFC’s Double Down when it first launched in 2011, and KFC workers striking in 2017 (Photos: Getty Images)

KaiMay 21, 2019

Emily Writes: Say no to KFC’s PR bullshit and stand with the striking workers

KFC’s Double Down when it first launched in 2011, and KFC workers striking in 2017 (Photos: Getty Images)
KFC’s Double Down when it first launched in 2011, and KFC workers striking in 2017 (Photos: Getty Images)

While KFC staff are desperately trying to draw attention to their terrible working conditions, people are losing their shit over a chicken burger. 

Over the weekend, as their staff begged them for better working conditions, KFC sent out an email to influencers and media inviting them to a party. KFC relaunched their Double Down burger as their workers lost a weekend’s pay to try to get attention to their miserable work life.

“The legendary Double Down is returning to KFC stores nationwide and to celebrate this almighty arrival we are throwing a party for our mega fans!” the email read.

The hierarchy at KFC seems to be “mega fans” who will blindly give them free publicity (and they did) at the top, influencers, bloggers and “personalities” happy to chuck an #sp at the end of some crap post about a crap burger in the middle, and at the very, very bottom: the workers who are the only reason you get to ironically like KFC.

“Let’s be honest, there is no better way to start the week than with a Double Down in hand, grooving to Jupiter Project, in the KFC Fort St VIP area. So come along and watch the excitement a burger made with mouth-watering fried chicken as buns can create,” the PR gushed.

Hmm, to be fair to KFC, that definitely does sound like a better way to start the week than the way their workers start their week – trying to budget so they can feed their families, not knowing if their overtime will be limited or not.

It’s not just KFC. Though KFC are the most grotesque in their PR following the strike, including an entirely tone-deaf video stating how much money New Zealanders spend on KFC. Here’s a tip – maybe don’t advertise how much money you’re raking in when you’re scoffing at meagre 7% hourly wage increases.

Restaurant Brands Ltd (RBL) made over $36 million last year. Shareholders have recently been paid $881 million by the new owners for a 75% stake. Unite Union says RBL easily can afford to pay their workers a decent increase and up paid hours. But they’ve chosen not to.

The strike at the weekend included Pizza Hut and Carl’s Jr. According to Unite, RBL wants to limit overtime to those who work more than 50 hours a week (currently 40) or more than 10 hours a day (currently eight). This would eliminate most time-and-a-half pay, likely the only way waged workers can make ends meet on such a small wage.

Unite national secretary and lead negotiator Gerard Hehir says staff are overstretched as it is. “Rosters are already far too thin, but KFC managers regularly find themselves with 25 to 50% of their rostered crew unavailable for one reason or another. There have been numerous media reports of customers shocked and angry at long delays in service. We receive daily reports from stressed-out staff unable to take breaks, reeling from angry customers and unable to ensure the stores are clean and correct food preparation procedures are followed.”

To address this, the union asked that KFC shift managers have the authority to reduce services such as drive-through or online orders when they don’t have replacement staff. They also asked that area managers put in writing their reasons for refusing requests to reduce services. According to the union, RBL would not agree to either proposal.

RBL also wants to cut paid breaks from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, due to minimum breaks becoming compulsory.

I wonder how many breaks the VIPs who celebrated a burger got on Monday?

The New Zealand Herald, in its breathless coverage of the Double Down burger, didn’t mention the strike. “I’m down! KFC’s Double Down is back and Kiwis are losing their minds” the headline read. Seriously. And as far as I could tell it wasn’t a sponsored post – it was in the business section.

“Life is worth living again,” one fan wrote.

Another said: “Date night every night!”

One fan even said the return of the Double Down could rekindle a former relationship.

“I know we’ve drifted apart, but I deeply miss our romantic dates at KFC gazing into each other’s eyes as we chow down on our delicious Double Downs. It was the best time of my life, let us relive the magic together again.”

Excuse me while I puke. It’s chicken. Calm the fuck down.

As consumers we have to make calls and it’s tough – we all like and consume products and services that are problematic. But honestly, I think we can do better than blowing our loads over a burger when employees are desperately underpaid and are facing 10-minute breaks from their Disney villain capitalist nightmare bosses.

Why would KFC ever change and be better to their staff when all of these people are giving them free PR despite the fact that their employees are repeatedly telling us working there is a nightmare?

I mean, it’s chicken.

We can do better than this. We can say no to the Double Down or whatever their latest million-dollar ad campaign is – and we can stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters working there.

Restaurant Brands chief executive Arif Khan told Stuff the company offered increases that balanced the impact of minimum wage increases with minimising costs to customers.

But as KFC employee Tawera Paapu told Māori TV,  “I think they’re underestimating how much our value is in this company. That’s the whole point of this strike. You see, without us, you don’t have a company. We can’t make all your money if we’re not in the store running it and, therefore, you should value us.”

Maybe KFC isn’t underestimating their value, they’re just following the consumer. And what does that say about the value of workers like Tawera Paapu?

Maybe it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

Keep going!