Concern over fast-food outlets' use of contractors during pandemic

A union has expressed concerned large restaurant chains will take advantage of the increased number of people seeking work amid the pandemic.

When the alert level drops from four to three next week, previously shut fast-food outlets will be allowed to operate drive-thrus and resume deliveries, under strict no-contact rules.

Restaurant Brands, which operates KFC, Pizza Hut and Carl's Jr, has posted a job ad online looking for independent contractors - not employees - to do deliveries.

Drivers will need to use their own vehicle, and pay the running costs themselves. They'll also have to sort out their own tax.

"As an Independent Contractor (Delivery Driver), you will pick up orders from both KFC and Pizza Hut stores and deliver to our valued customers," the ad, posted last Friday, reads. They'll be paid $9.50 per delivery.

Anyone taking on the job will also be expected to have "the correct vehicle insurance", which they can purchase from Restaurant Brands "for a small fee" of 10c per delivery.

Independent contractors don't get the same kind of benefits as employees, such as sick leave, holiday pay or even minimum wage. 

"Contractors aren't covered by most employment-related laws," the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website explains. "This means they don't get things like annual leave or sick leave, they can't bring personal grievances, they have to pay their own tax."

Unite Union, which represents many low-paid workers in the fast-food industry, called it "problematic".

"Contractors aren't covered by the same protections as employees. A significant part of their income comes from tips," national secretary Gerard Hehir told Stuff.

"These jobs are usually taken up by vulnerable workers who may not know their rights."

Newshub has contacted Restaurant Brands to ask if this is usual practise for its drivers, or perhaps a temporary move to handle the expected boost in orders after a month without takeaways; whether $9.50 per delivery was expected to be above or below the usual rate; and what safety measures independent contractors will be offered.

Some other fast-food outlets, including McDonald's and Restaurant Brands' own Carl's Jr, have instead opted for deliveries through Uber Eats - which has been widely criticised for refusing to drop its commission rate of up to 35 percent per delivery. 

Rival pizza chain Domino's told Stuff it was using 1000 employed staff to work as drivers under level 3, but only minimum wage.