'Let these businesses die': Kiwis, union boss rage at American restaurant owner who says we're lazy

An American restaurant owner who boasted of paying Kiwis "as little as I could" because they call in sick and want to have days off has been slammed as part of the reason the industry's struggling to find workers. 

The US man, only known as Mark, phoned into radio station Magic Talk earlier this week, telling hosts Leah Panapa and Danny Watson he had owned multiple restaurants, both in the US and Aotearoa.

"Kiwis are unwilling to work - they've been raised with the ethic that the benefit is a viable career choice," he said.

"The immigrants have a much better work ethic, much more work-oriented, much more productive... Kiwis call in sick more often, they are late more often, they take longer to train, they expect more breaks,  they expect more holidays. They're a nightmare." 

Asked how much he paid, he said "as little as I could", expecting good staff to make enough to live on through tips and bonuses - and the rest to quit.

"A wage should not be based on what an individual needs - all individuals need more than what the value they produce for the company. If a company has to pay an individual what they think they need, every business would go out of business." 

The comments shocked Panapa and Watson, who said they'd never work for him. Kiwis took to web forum Reddit in their droves to call him out.

"Government needs to let these businesses die," said user king_john651. "Being paid $18 when it was minimum wage wasn't an incentive to work harder. If anything it made me more apathetic to do more than my contractual obligations."

"Douche American used to being able to pay his wageslaves $2.50 an hour+tips shocked when in country where people have the slightest amount of workers rights," said batt3ryac1d1.

"The American boss ethic is to f**k your workers as hard as you legally can," added another, while the top-voted comment simply read: "What a f**king dumbarse." 

Unite Union assistant secretary Gerard Hehir told Newshub he was impressed by the reaction on the Reddit thread.

"There was a lot of clearly people who have direct experience who nailed a lot of issues about why migrant workers are more productive than Kiwis."

That's because their presence in New Zealand is often tied to their job. 

"You pay low wages, you have workers reliant on tips, you rely on immigrant workers. They're hard workers - why? Because they don't want to get sent home," said Hehir. "They're tied to their employer and they're desperate to stay in the country. It's just exploitation. It's not about hard work - it's about power and control over the workers."

One Reddit user pointed out that while tipping is the norm in the US, in order to top up lower-than-usual minimum wages for hospo staff, it's not common here. 

"If you've ever seen the fantastic scene from the film Reservoir Dogs where they discuss tipping culture, most Kiwis are Mr Pink," said user fireflyry. 

In the film, Mr Pink - portrayed by Steve Buscemi - refuses to follow his colleagues Mr Pink and Nice Guy Eddie and tip a waitress, because "as far as I'm concerned, they're just doing their job".

Hehir says it's "not something we want here", and would only make the industry's struggles to attract labour even worse.  Some venues, he said, have an annual staff turnover of up close to 100 percent. 

"Why aren't they staying? That is the question. He's one of the reasons," said Hehir. "There's a shortage of labour, and guess who misses out first? The people paying the least." 

Many people on Reddit said when they went overseas, they often had no trouble finding employment  because Kiwis - as well as South Africans and Aussies - have a reputation for hard work. 

A recent report from the Productivity Commission found Kiwis work longer hours than most others in the OECD, for lower wages.