May Day for McDonald’s: British workers walk off the job
Neil Terry / Morning Star

WATFORD, United Kingdom—McDonald’s workers were met with huge waves of solidarity on International Workers’ Day yesterday as they walked out over zero-hours contracts and poor working conditions.

Workers at the fast food giant’s branches in Manchester and Watford joined their colleagues in Crayford and Cambridge in demanding a £10-an-hour (approx. $13.50 USD) living wage, fixed contracts, dignity at work, and union recognition.

In Watford, hometown of McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, more than 100 people turned out to support the strikers from various different branches, while more than 50 people joined the picket in Manchester.

Speaking on behalf of the strikers was Ali, a striker from Manchester who heralded the “determination” of his colleagues.

He said: “McDonald’s doesn’t respect us as workers. They don’t respect us as people.

“But we are showing our strength here. If we carry on, we will win and we will continue to fight to live the life we deserve.”

Joining the pickets was Labour Party MP Laura Pidcock, who was once a McDonald’s employee.

She told the workers that she understood what it was like to work in this environment and saluted the strikers for their “extraordinary act of bravery” in taking on one of the world’s largest corporations.

McDonald’s announced on Monday that it was creating 1,000 new managers’ jobs across Britain following its “excellent” start to the year.

It said it needed more managers over the coming months as it continued to refurbish its restaurants, upgrade kitchens, and press ahead with new technology such as self-order screens.

The firm announced a 5.5 percent increase in global sales for the first quarter of 2018, with a 0.8 per cent rise in the number of customers.

Joe Bradley, a representative of Young Labour, the Labour Party’s youth group, said that, as a former McDonald’s worker, it was an inspiration to see them saying “enough is enough.”

He said, “I know from personal experience that McDonald’s takes advantage of young workers, so it is incredible to see such large picket lines in defense of people who want decent wages and good contracts.”

McDonald’s employees organized by the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers Union made waves in September with the first wave of strikes in British branches of the burger empire.

Since then, the dispute has only spread, with large numbers of fast food and restaurant workers joining trade unions and sparking disputes such as the ongoing confrontation between workers and management at TGI Friday’s.

On hearing of the dispute, a waiter working in a nearby chain restaurant chose to go to a different restaurant for lunch instead of crossing the picket line. He told the Star: “If my managers keep on behaving the way they are, that’ll be us next.”

In Manchester, striking worker Lauren McCourt said, “We’re walking off the job for a £10 per hour minimum wage and for the right to a union.

“We want respect at work and we’re willing to fight for it. We want this at our workplace, but, more than that, we want this for every industry in Britain.

“I work hard, but I’m still not sure I’m going to make enough to pay the rent. I’m often worried about being made homeless.

“The boss at McDonald’s earns thousands of pounds an hour while we scrape by. We’ve had enough. It takes drastic action to make the big change we’re demanding and it’s going to take all of us to achieve it.

“For my workmates and me this is huge.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has written to McDonald’s chief executive, Easterbrook, saying the workers’ demands were “fair and reasonable” and suggesting a meeting to discuss issues such as pay and union recognition at the company.

He said, “I believe that every worker deserves what they are calling for—a real living wage of at least £10 an hour, security in work and a choice of fixed hours, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of age, and the right to form a trade union and for that union to be recognized by the company.

“Under a Labour government, all workers will be entitled to a real living wage of at least £10 an hour, an end to zero-hour contracts, an end to the unjust youth minimum wage rate, and powers for unions to support workers who wish to form a union.

“It is not too late to address the problems your workers have raised and to secure a reputation for your company as a good employer.”

Morning Star


Marcus Barnett
Marcus Barnett

Young Labour International Officer. Secretary of London Young Labour. RMT union Regional Political Officer. Writes for Britain's Morning Star and Jacobin Magazine.