Fast food workers from Britain and New Zealand held a meeting on fighting zero hours’ contracts in London last Saturday.
It was organised by the Fast Food Rights campaign.
McDonald’s workers and activists from New Zealand’s Unite union described how they successfully forced their government to outlaw zero hours’ contracts.
Unite national director Mike Treen told the meeting that their plan to unionise fast food workers “was an ambitious project”. “We were going into industries that hadn’t had a union for a couple of decades. We were going up against some of the biggest employers in the world,” he said.
He added, “We recruited over a period of nine months to a year something like four thousand fast food workers. But that wasn’t enough—we needed a campaign that combined industrial and political campaigning.”
Mike described how their campaign also organised thousands-strong demonstrations—and even a school students’ walkout against youth wage rates.
McDonald’s worker Alastair Reith told Socialist Worker that they had used “disruptive tactics” such as “two or three workers going out for half an hour to an hour”.
He added that young workers without experiences of trade unions could be surprisingly open to the idea of organising. He said, “If you ask workers to join the union then they will—and they’re not always the people you expect”.
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell also spoke at the meeting and called on activists to push for the TUC and the Labour Party to support the campaign.
He said, “We’ve got to get to this year’s TUC conference and translate their words of commitment into investment in a national campaign.
“We need to ensure that at the Labour Party conference this year we get a debate and a resolution supporting the action of the Fast Food Rights campaign.”
Speakers also included a cleaner from Topshop clothes store, who had been sacked for joining the United Voices of the World union.
She said, “I have been fighting my employer for the last six years. Our fight has been very large and powerful and in response my bosses have punished me”.
After the meeting finished the campaigners joined a noisy and colourful demonstration outside the Topshop on central London’s Oxford Street.