McDonald’s staff strike over pay concerns

McDonald’s faced its first strike in several decades after staff protested over pay a few weeks ago.

Over forty employees walked out of two restaurants in Cambridge and South London on Monday, 4 September to voice their concerns about the company’s use of zero-hour contracts.

Early-morning picket lines were mounted outside the stores before employees and allies, many of them students, attended a rally in Westminster later in the afternoon.

McDonald’s began operating in the UK in 1974, but does not allow its employees to join a union. However, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), one of Britain’s oldest, said staff were demanding a wage of at least £10 an hour, more secure working conditions and union recognition.

The strike was supported by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said in a statement that: ‘Our party offers support and solidarity to the brave McDonald’s workers, who are making history today. They are standing up for workers’ rights by leading the first ever strike at McDonald’s in the UK.’

‘Their demands – an end to zero-hours contracts by the end of the year, union recognition and a £10 per hour minimum wage – are just, and should be met.’

McDonald’s dismissed the cause behind the strike, saying the dispute was ‘solely related to our internal grievance procedures and not concerning pay or contracts.’

In a statement, the fast-food chain added that ‘a small number of people representing less than 0.01% of our workforce took strike action in two of our 1,270 UK restaurants.’

But Ian Hodson, president of the BFAWU, told the media that: ‘McDonald’s has had countless opportunities to resolve grievances by offering workers a fair wage and acceptable working conditions. This is a call for change.’

‘For far too long, workers in fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s have had to deal with poor working conditions, drastic cuts to employee hours, and even bullying in the workplace – viewed by many as a punishment for joining a union.’

Steve Day, a 25-year-old McDonald’s worker from Cambridge, said encouraging his colleagues to join the BFAWU and go on strike had been very difficult and 10 staff out of about 90 had travelled to the protest in London.

Day added that it was not only pay and contracts that were the problem. ‘We are also striking because of the bullying and harassment that goes on. There has been some truly appalling behaviour.’

McDonald’s, which employs around 85,000 people in the UK, announced in April that workers would be offered a choice of flexible or fixed contracts. It also pointed to a series of pay-rises as evidence that it treated staff well.

The McDonald’s chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, last year took home a total pay package of $15.35m (£11.8m).

A spokesman added: ‘We are proud of our people at McDonald’s. They are at the heart of all we do and we work hard to ensure that our teams are treated fairly. Our internal processes underpin that commitment.’

By Calum Henderson.