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McDonald's worker told 'don't act gay'

By Jessica Beresford

Published: 4:25PM Wednesday May 01, 2013 Source: ONE News

A worker at a McDonald's store says he was unfairly discriminated against by management because he is gay.

The claims come as staff from stores throughout Auckland protest outside McDonald's Queen St against wages and working hours, among other issues.

Sean Bailey, a worker at the fast food chain's Quay Street store in the city, who is taking part in the protest today, said people were not only picketing for better wages and working conditions, but also taking a stand on gay rights.

Bailey said he had been discriminated against on two separate occasions during work, as well as being told to change his voice because it sounded "too gay".

"One of my managers said, 'if you act gay on my shift, I will discipline you'.

"He also said, 'if you turn anyone else in the store gay, I will punish you and make you lose your job'."

Bailey said the comments made him embarrassed to return to work.

"I had to call in sick just because I couldn't work with him, which meant I lost work hours and money."

A spokeswoman for McDonald's said the company had policies in place to protect staff against discrimination.

"[McDonald's] takes complaints of this nature very seriously. In this specific case the restaurant followed internal processes but due to privacy restrictions we cannot discuss the outcome."

Bailey claimed the manager was forced to apologise and was moved to another store in central Auckland, however he thought the punishment did not go far enough.

"I think the punishment was unfair for something so serious. Even though he had moved stores there's nothing to stop him from doing the same thing somewhere else."

The company that owns the franchise for the Quay St store - MC Rush Ltd - has not returned calls from onenews.co.nz.

Talks break down

The protests come after five weeks of talks between Unite Union and McDonald's broke down.

The fastfood chain had offered a 25 cent pay increase to its workers, which Unite spokesperson Joe Carolan said was not good enough.

A spokeswoman for McDonald's said despite having made good progress with the union, the fast food chain had been unable to reach an agreement.

"We are committed to continuing to negotiate in good faith with the union," she said.

Carolan said McDonald's workers wanted equal pay to staff at other fast food chains.

"McDonald's workers want pay parity with workers from KFC," he said. "For the first six months, KFC workers get the minimum wage, but then have the option of doing Gold Star training to get a $1 hourly pay increase."

Carolan also said KFC workers received Christmas bonuses, over-time pay and free meals with shifts.

"McDonald's gives nothing, no bonuses."

Carolan said the main issue, however, was that workers at McDonald's were not given security of hours.

"We get complaints from people who have been working there for three or four years, working 30-35 hours a week, who suddenly get their hours cut.

"When the minimum wage was designed, it was for the 40-hour working week."

The Labour Party's labour issues spokesman Darien Fenton said a solution to the issue was to set a higher minimum wage and create stronger collective bargaining laws.

"Twenty-five cents-an-hour pay increase is a pittance. Most don't work 40 hours a week, so that offer will go nowhere near meeting the increasing cost of living."

A further nation-wide protest of McDonald's workers is planned for next week.

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