27 year old Julie Tyler was suspended by her boss, Burger King, for speaking out about its low wages and poor working conditions.
BK is the second largest fast food chain in the world. In the fiscal year ending in June of 2010, the company reported sales of approximately $2.5 billion and had 38,884 employees.
Julie wrote on her Facebook page: 'Real jobs don't underpay and overwork people like BK does'.
Fair enough - but BK management in Dunedin weren't happy that Julie had been writing about her dismal wages and working conditions. She was promptly suspended.
BK haven't sacked Julie but have now given her a second final written warning.
Julie was already on a final written warning after two previous complaints, including one where she told an abusive customer, "Like you need it". She had faced dismissal if involved in any further incidents. BK workers are often abused by customers.
Julie, who is being fully supported by the Unite Union, says she stands by her comments.
"I said the truth from day 1. It is about freedom of speech and I have the support of my colleagues."
The fast food industry, both here and overseas, has a well deserved reputation as not being a good place to work if you want to earn a decent living. BK are no exception.
In New Zealand, as the economy continues to shed jobs that pay adequate wages, jobs in the fast food industry are becoming increasingly important. The days of the fast food industry being mainly a workplace for teens who need spending money are largely a thing of the past.
In 2009 Social Development Minister Paula Bennett signed an agreement with McDonald's to provide it with 7000 beneficiaries for the fast-food chain's restaurant expansion plans.
But while the fast food industry’s importance in the economy grows, the low wages and poor working conditions remain. This situation wasn't improved by Government's Monday announcement of a pathetic 25 cents an hour increase in the minimum wage.
Fast food companies are determined to make their product at the lowest possible cost. That means keeping wages down. McDonalds, as the pioneer fast food company, set the trend for other companies. The others, like BK, have followed.
While it pays its workers peanuts BK's executives are doing very nicely, thank you.
In 2006 the bonuses of the top 12 executives at the company that controls Burger King exceeded $200 million.
In 2009 John Chidsey, the CEO of Burger King, was paid $5,475,000. He was replaced in 2010 after BK suffered a 13 percent profit fall.
In contrast BK workers like Julie Tyler get paid the bare minimum and are expected to be 'respectful' to the company that exploits them.