Employees of Restaurant Brands, which runs KFC, Pizza Hut and Carl’s Jr restaurant chains, were left out of pocket when the company hit payroll trouble over Christmas.
Stemming from an initial administrative failure due to Christmas falling on a Tuesday, it spiralled into a three-week pay crisis for an estimated 3000 workers at the chain. There were reports that some people had to sell belongings in order to pay rent and childcare.
Unite National Secretary Gerard Hehir said that the full extent of the trouble was only now becoming clear as most union workers were getting back from holidays. Unite was sorting through all the information and reports to get a clear picture of what happened and why.
According to Hehir, Restaurant Brands’ pay system works from Monday to Sunday, and with Christmas falling on a Tuesday, it decided to pay staff on the Monday.
It also opted to only pay staff for fixed shifts, not additional hours actually worked in the weekends before Christmas and New Year.
A week later, on New Year’s Eve, most staff did not get paid as expected on December 31.
Hehir said adjustments from the previous week were supposed to be made but no pay went through for KFC and Pizza Hut staff.
“After we alerted them on the morning of New Year’s Day that almost all their employees hadn’t received pay, they said Westpac was down. It was all supposed to be loaded on Monday night. Some people had already missed out on pay for additional hours worked and then they didn’t get any pay until Thursday January 3…there are a lot of people who live pay cheque to pay cheque and it’s a real problem if their pay is late one week,” said Hehir.
Geraldine Oldham, Restaurant Brands’ general manager sales and marketing, said: “We have experienced some recent issues with our payroll system, including an error which occurred when it was adjusted to pay staff in advance of their regular payday that fell on a public holiday (New Year’s Day). We were also impacted by a separate external banking issue which affected multiple businesses.
“Most of these issues have now been resolved, and we are working urgently to ensure that any outstanding payroll concerns are resolved as soon as possible. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience and concern this caused some of our staff at this time of the year. We understand it’s very stressful for those who were impacted and we are asking anyone with any outstanding concerns to contact payroll or their store manager directly so we can resolve these.”
A service manager at a KFC in Auckland who did not wish to be named said that on December 24, “I was paid but I wasn’t paid the full amount. I was short. They gave us no reason.
“They put an email up for that Christmas saying sorry about this. We’re all on holiday and we can’t do anything about but we’ll get it all sorted out. They said ‘don’t worry about it we’ll pay you on the following Monday, the day before New Year’s Eve’.
“Then nobody got paid at all on the following Monday. Everyone was struggling, the pays had moved around. [All my ] APs got stuffed up.
“We thought they were going to fix up the pay the second week and then nobody got paid.
“I sent over 100 texts to my manager asking if I could come and grab some food for me and my little girl. The manager did not acknowledge it.”
A 49-year-old grandmother-of-three who works in a South Island KFC had similar frustrations. She wasn’t affected by the Christmas Eve payment, but “the second week we didn’t get paid – it messed up my bank payments – a real pain in the butt”.
“I live from week-to-week, I’m a single woman supporting three grandchildren, and a 14-year-old and older disabled child and the courts have put three grandsons into my care and I am the only income-earner. So we rely on my wages. The money would be my $40 petrol money and my groceries.”
Unite sent emails out to update their members, and while store managers did receive information from RBL, staff were never directly contacted and no apologies were offered, the union said.
“I actually haven’t got a reply from payroll, its just the union that’s replying,” said Edward Rangi, who works at the Manukau branch.
“I was struggling for money and asking a lot of people and it’s embarrassing asking for money.”
The delay in payments and ensuing confusion would have affected more than 3000 people during one of the most expensive times of the year, and caused an “enormous amount of stress”, Hehir said.
A 27-year-old worker from KFC Palmerston North said he had to sell his tablet in order make ends meet and provide his daughter with a meal.
“I live week by week, so when I get told I’m going get paid Monday, I’ll live to Monday. I sold that tablet to feed her and go pick her up.”