McDonald’s workers went on strike on Tuesday, demanding higher wages and more secure contracts from the fast-food giant.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer joined a protest march by workers organised as part of an international movement for better working conditions in the fast food industry.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell was due to meet with the protestors as they arrive at Downing Street as part of a series of global “McStrike” events in countries including France, Belgium, Brazil, Chile and New Zealand.
Employees at six McDonald’s restaurants in the UK have walked out, claiming that they struggle to get by on minimum wage of £8.21 per hour, or less for younger workers.
They say the problem is made worse because McDonald’s contracts allow managers to change staff hours at short notice, meaning monthly income can go up and down.
In the UK, McDonald's workers are calling for £15 an hour for all staff regardless of age, the choice of guaranteed hours, and notice of shifts four weeks in advance.
The burger chain says all staff had been offered contracts with guaranteed numbers of hours and only a tiny minority of 130,000 UK workers would go on strike.
The staff also want McDonald’s to recognise the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union (BFAWU) so that it can negotiate on their behalf. McDonald’s does not currently recognise any union.
An employee at Crayford McDonald's in London, Lewis Baker, said he will be striking because he struggles to pay rent on his income of £8.80 an hour.
Mr Baker, 29, said: “There are a lot of workers who are struggling to pay their bills and get by day to day.
“We don't have set hours, so we don't always earn enough to pay the bills.
“If we got £15 an hour, it would have a massive impact - I would be able to afford to pay my rent, to pay my bills, go on holiday and have some kind of work-life balance.
“I think it's important to strike against massive corporations like McDonald's who are making millions.”
A former McDonald's employee, Connor McLean-Bolingoli, said he was paid £6.20 an hour when he worked at the fast food outlet as a teenager.
Mr McLean-Bolingoli, 22, said he left the job in December 2017 after being told to work night shifts despite his bosses knowing he was a young carer.
He said: “The staff are more or less seen as expendable, as they know there will always be new high school and uni students taking up positions.
“I left because I had been scheduled to work overnight shifts for the first time since explaining that, as a carer for my mother, who has MS, I couldn't work overnight shifts.”
The former employee, who now earns double his McDonald's wage, said the low pay for employees translates into bad customer service.
He said: “I was told by a guy on my first day, 'we don't get paid enough to care about getting normal burgers exactly right', and obviously that attitude lets things down for the customer.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell will join the workers at Downing Street to challenge their “poverty wages”.
He said: “Low pay and insecure work is endemic in the fast food industry.
“A Labour government will take on the big corporations such as McDonald's to stop them from paying out poverty wages.
“Labour's commitment to a £10-an-hour real living wage and an end to in-work poverty will help millions of low-paid workers across the country.”
Shadow Brexit minister Mr Starmer tweeted: “Proud to stand in solidarity with McDonald’s workers in Wandsworth. They are standing up to corporate injustice, low pay and the exploitation of workers. Please support them.”
A McDonald's spokesperson said: “We are extremely disappointed that a very small number of our people in just a handful of our restaurants are considering industrial action.
“We understand only nine people are involved across six restaurants, which is a tiny proportion of our 130,000 workforce and 1,300 restaurants.
“Their potential actions do not represent our people. We are committed to investing in our workforce, listening to and doing what is right by them.
“The BFAWU is calling for 40-hour guaranteed contracts, which is something we already offer - but has been chosen by very few of our people.
“With all given the choice, around 90 per cent of our employees have chosen to remain on flexible contracts, valuing the ability to work their shifts around their lives.”
Additional reporting by PA news agency
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