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Does McDonald's workers strike reveal a lack of corporate care?

5 min read

18 November 2019

Last week, McDonald's UK employees striked for better pay and work conditions. Does their poor treatment suggest that smaller hospitality businesses can look after staff better?

McDonald’s has never had the best reputation when it comes to food health. The grease stains of Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 experiment documentary “Super-Size Me” hasn’t quite been fully scrubbed from the brand’s image, leaving diners with a side of residual guilt along with their fries.

Despite the fact that consumers are now aware that one too many Big Mac burgers will have an adverse effect on their waistline (and internal organs), the company still dominates the fast-food chain with no signs on the golden arches folding any time soon.

McDonald’s has problems with staff

More recently, though the company has been under the spotlight for reasons beyond the fattening effects of their produce. Their CEO, Steve Easterbrook was forced to resign due to an inappropriate in house relationship, and their HR boss has also since stepped down.

But McDonald’s isn’t only having a tough time with its senior staff, in the UK, employees working in its many restaurants were striking last week to demand better pay.

Not lovin’ it

McDonald's work strike

Fight for your rights: Mcdonald’s employees are striking against unfavourable work conditions.

Mcdonald’s UK employees are paid £8.80 an hour –  not much more than their large 20 piece nugget meal.

In protests across London, workers were making a bid to receive wages of £15 an hour, an end to youth rates, and the choice of guaranteed hours of up to 40 hours a week and a notice of shifts four weeks in advance.

**Real Business reached out to an ex-recruiter within the fast-food industry, who revealed that often people who turn to hospitality roles for a long term source of income can be exploited.**

This is what they had to say…

“When recruiting, we don’t want students, as they will have aspirations outside of the business, we want to find people that will offer long term loyalty to the company. This is why we often ‘held it against them’ if they had a highly impressive CV, as we assumed they saw us as a temporary measure to pay the bills before they quickly moved on to a higher paying job.”

“For this reason, we could comfortably get away with low wages, however, the real issue was the lack of progression in pay. From a junior member learning the ropes to the manager, or even the regional manager, there was no real progression in pay, the jump in wages was so low that it still wasn’t liveable. Staff would regularly ask for pay increases, but with a big chain, there were certain brackets”.

‘Hostile’ hospitality?

McDonald wok strike

Tough times: The decline of the high street has made business owners picky about who they choose to employ.

“With restaurants continuing to go bust at an alarming rate, the survival of the fittest has never been a truer mantra. Agility and low costs keep restaurants open and, while workers’ rights are of course important, hospitality employers need better protection if they are to survive this turbulent climate. Margins in hospitality are tight, and the impact of unplanned staff absence can be seismic,” says  John Trueman, CEO of a hospitality technology firm, Quadranet Hospitality.

However, small restaurant owners such as Alan McColm, co-owner of The Real Food Café, says he tries his hardest to ensure his staff are treated fairly “all team members earn more than the Living Wage (our company is one of only four accredited Living Wage employers in the Stirling area), which is their compensation for a high standard of work and effort.”

The bigger ‘poverty pay’ picture

Mcdonalds work strike

Clean up your act: Protests by maintenance staff at St Mary’s London hospital this week.

With 6m people in the UK being paid less than the living wage, pay-wage poverty is a serious issue.

52% of people in the UK are forced to source extra cash to see them through to their next payday with most turning to credit cards and overdrafts to aid them.

Just last month, 150 porters and cleaners at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, held a three-day strike to obtain the rights to receive £10.50 per hour pay.