Workers at two branches of the McDonald’s fast food chain have voted by a massive margin to strike.The Bfawu union members delivered a 96 percent vote to strike last Friday.
Their union said the strike is over the “failure to deal with grievances related to drastic cuts to employee hours and bullying in the workplace—viewed by some as a punishment for joining a union”. After the vote at least one manager was suspended.
Workers also call for £10 an hour and the recognition of their right to join a trade union of their choice.
The walkouts in Cambridge and Crayford, south east London, are part of an international day of action against low pay on 4 September.
They will link up with the US fast food workers’ Fight for $15 campaign.
Shen Batmaz, a worker at the Crayford store, told Socialist Worker, “We’re going to stand up with our brothers and sisters from around the world who are fighting against poverty pay.
“People don’t want to put up with it any longer—we need to show McDonald’s we’re willing to stand up to them.”
The strike undermines arguments in the trade union movement that so-called “precarious” industries are too difficult to organise in. These McDonald’s workers show why the trade union movement needs to take them seriously.
Shen said, “In the days since the ballot result came in we’ve had seven people join the union at my store and I think the Cambridge store has had a similar number joining.”
Despite workers raising their grievances through official channels at McDonald’s, they have been ignored.
Bfawu president Ian Hodson said, “McDonald’s has had countless opportunities to offer workers a fair wage and acceptable working conditions.”
Since the ballot result McDonald’s said it will finally implement an announcement it made in April this year. It came after protests by Fast Food Rights campaign activists outside its stores in Glasgow.
This would offer 80,000 workers the chance to get off zero hour contracts.
“We heard nothing about it for months,” said Shen. “But then as soon as the result of the ballot came in they said they would implement it by the end of this year.
“It shows that organising gets results.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “I support McDonald’s workers who have balloted to strike for the first time in the UK.”
Corbyn went on to say that Labour is committed to a £10 an hour minimum wage by 2020. But inflation means that the cost of living will likely move beyond that mark by 2020.
McDonald’s workers aren’t waiting for politicians to negotiate with bosses on their behalf in three years’ time, they’re pushing for it themselves now.
Could you pay some tax with that?
McDonald’s can afford to pay its workers a decent wage and guarantee them secure working conditions.
In April the firm posted the highest monthly sales in its history for Britain.
However, McDonald’s European office was based in Luxembourg until very recently.
That meant the firm only paid 1.49 percent tax on its profits of almost £1.4 billion from 2009, according to the Financial Times newspaper.
Late last year, under pressure from the mood against tax dodging firms, it made the decision to relocate its European head office to London.
In a statement sure to provoke outrage among the firm’s low paid workers, a McDonald’s spokesperson told Socialist Worker, “We are proud of our people at McDonald’s.
“They are at the heart of all we do and we work hard to ensure that our teams are treated fairly.”
McDonald’s can afford to pay workers’ demands and then some—but they won’t without a fight.