McDonald’s workers set to strike for first time in UK history

Employees at McDonald’s are taking a stand against bullying, poverty pay and zero-hours contracts writes Max Leak

McDonald's strike London

Ronald McDonald | © Steve Baker/Flickr

Workers at two McDonald’s outlets in Cambridge and Crayford have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action for the first time in the history of McDonald’s in the UK. The workers are members of the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).

Workers are demanding a wage of £10 an hour and an end to zero-hours contracts, as well as the company’s recognition of BFAWU. McDonald’s restaurant staff currently work on zero-hours contracts and, if they are aged 25 or above, are paid £7.50 an hour, National Minimum Wage. The Living Wage – the minimum level of pay at which workers can typically lead a decent and secure life – is estimated at £9.75 in London and £8.45 elsewhere in the country.

Despite claiming earlier in the year that it would offer its employees the chance to transition to guaranteed-hours contracts, McDonald’s continues to employ 80,000 people on zero-hours contracts, making it one of the largest users of such contracts in the UK. Union sources say that workers at Cambridge and Crayford have recently faced drastic cuts in their hours, resulting in some employees being evicted from their homes.

Company whistle-blowers have also said that bullying and intimidation are rife at McDonald’s, and that workers are widely pressured not to join unions.

The news comes following years of campaigning from groups such as Fast Food Rights and the Scottish Trades Union Congress initiative Better Than Zero, which have drawn attention to widespread poverty pay and exploitative employment practices across the fast food sector.

Fight for $15 UK global

Fight for $15 in Chicago | © Bob Simpson/Flickr

Various Labour MPs have also butted heads with the company over its employment practices, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was attacked by several Blairite MPs last year for denying McDonald’s a stall at Labour Party Conference. Corbyn has already signalled his full support for the strikers, and has reconfirmed his commitment to a £10 minimum wage.

The McDonald’s strike effort has drawn inspiration from the US-based Fight for $15 movement, which demands a wage of $15 per hour for fast food workers. Capturing the public imagination, the campaign received backing from the popular presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders – who, in a stance mirroring Corbyn’s approach in Britain, pledged to increase the federal hourly minimum wage to $15. Fight for $15’s coordinators say that the campaign’s efforts have won wage increases for 22 million workers, 10 million of whom have received or been promised a wage of $15 per hour. Nationwide days of action have brought out tens of thousands of fast food workers on strike and inspired similar events in the UK and around the world.

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