Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2392

Give McDonald's workers a break, and a real living wage

I spent a year working at McDonald’s aged 17-18. Workplace politics engulfed us all.

Those close to the manager who ran the rota rarely had to worry about the shifts they’d get. But me and my fellow “crew members” who had no relationship with the manager outside work were left scrapping for the odd shift. 

And I do mean odd shifts—from a 4am start one morning to a midnight finish another day. Life at McDonald’s was much more work than the four pound something an hour I was paid as a 17 year old seemed to justify. 

I also remember the weeks I was given zero hours. Without support from my mum I have no idea how I would have got by.  

Any company that earns hundreds of millions of pounds in profits as McDonald’s does should pay their staff a living wage. 

Believe me, unless you’ve worked at McDonald’s, you have absolutely no idea how hard it is.

This is why I spent an hour and half last Saturday in the pouring rain at the demonstration for fast food workers outside McDonald’s in Sheffield. 

It was called by the Bfawu union and others in the Fast Food Rights campaign. I had been inside, but the manager ejected me for talking to workers about joining a union.

I would love to see David Cameron work a shift in McDonald’s. He probably wouldn’t make it to “break time”. And I remember break time came whenever your manager said—it could be one hour into your shift or it could be five hours in.

Bfawu has done some exceptional work recently round zero hours contracts. The Hovis strike in Wigan was just the start.

We have to fight tooth and nail for a future for those who linger on the edge of poverty because of zero hours contracts.

Apryl Walcott-ChowSheffield

Unions can back Labour or their members

Labour-controlled Wolverhampton Council announced it is to sack 2,000 workers and privatise 500 others.

It is also reducing full time hours from 37 to 35, banning flexitime and deducting a day’s pay for anyone off sick. 

The planned £123 million worth of cuts are to take place over the next five years. 

Labour councillors can blame cuts this year on the Tories. But the bulk of these cuts are to take place under the next—hopefully Labour—government. It is an utter disgrace for Labour councils to plan for huge cuts under a possible future Labour government.

When Ed Miliband addressed the 500,000-strong TUC March for the Alternative in 2011, did he mean this?

Public sector unions must put the interests of their members above any political affiliations to the Labour Party. They must fight all the cuts with all their might. 

Tony BarnsleyJoint Assistant Branch Secretary, Sandwell Unison (personal capacity)

Spare a thought for the Environment Agency

When Environment Agency (EA) workers have time to consider the future—and many don’t at the moment—it is with despair.

In the worst affected areas operational staff are working up to 48 hour shifts. Most have been working seven day weeks.

In the midst of all this they feel that they’ve been pilloried. Staff were advised to double up when working on the Somerset Levels due to death threats over supposed EA inaction. 

On the very same day a Tory MP participated in an anti-EA protest at the nearest area office.

EA’s next priority after incident response is the “restructuring” intended to remove 1,700 posts. 

Many EA workers have now had two Christmases cancelled in a row. Current events are extreme, but they also seem to be forming a trend.

When the storms stop, bear in mind that we are all safer with an effective EA.

Name withheldSomerset

Comrade is 100 not out

Austin Burnett celebrated his 100 birthday on 17 February. He stayed active in the SWP well into his 80s.

Austin was born in Hull to a single parent mother. Aged 11 he was sent to Canada, then returned to Britain and placed in an orphanage. 

He returned to Canada and worked as a farm labourer. At the age of 22 he accompanied trade union leader Tom Mann on a speaking tour. 

For 12 years he was a ferry steward. He then worked on Britain’s railways for many years, finally being elected to the executive of the National Union of Railwaymen. 

Being a bureaucrat didn’t suit him, and he completed a master’s degree in history. 

Austin received two letters on his birthday—one from the queen and, as a life-long Arsenal fan, one from Arsene Wenger. “I valued Mr Wenger’s far more,” Austin told me. “I am definitely not a royalist.”

Sabby SagallNorth London

Time to act on climate

Recent extreme weather events have happened with global temperatures rising less than one degree above pre-industrial conditions. 

But if we don’t act it is likely that they will rise by a further four or five degrees by the end of the century.

This is why the Campaign against Climate Change has recently launched the Time to Act campaign. 

Back it at

Ken MontagueLondon

Khat ban adds to prejudice

Theresa May has made khat illegal and classed it as a class C drug. 

Khat is traditionally chewed by Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities. So at one fell swoop the Tories have demonised three communities as drug addicts. 

Maxine BowlerSheffield

How to vote in Euro elections

Unite Against Fascism rightly says people should vote against the Nazi British National Party (BNP) in the European elections. It doesn’t advocate a vote for any one party. 

But socialists in this united front can also have their own position. 

A good example is immigration. We oppose the racism whipped up by Ukip, the Tories and, unfortunately, many Labour politicians. 

Still, a vote for Labour is the best way to stop BNP leader Nick Griffin being re?elected.

Voting Labour doesn’t stop us criticising when it implements Tory cuts. 

Adam RoseManchester

An ounce of action needed

“Rejoice” in economic recovery—as £100 billion tax money goes missing every year! 

Meanwhile millions suffer in the name of austerity. It’s time to remind our union leaders of what Frederick Engels said, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory”. 

A OwensLondon

A victim of circumstances

Camilla Royle (Socialist Worker, 15 February) says we shouldn’t “see people as victims of their circumstances rather than political actors”.But I am a victim of circumstances. 

It’s almost impossible to do anything without a lot of money. All I can do is write an angry letter, but no one powerful reads Socialist Worker.

Jonathan Guy MorrisNewcastle

Apology: We wrongly labelled a picture of Mary Adenugba as being Olayinka Olatunde in last week’s issue

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Article information

Tue 25 Feb 2014, 18:25 GMT
Issue No. 2392
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