McDonald’s faces its first strike since it opened in the UK in 1974, with workers at branches in Cambridge and Crayford, in south-east London, staging strikes in a row over the use of zero-hours contracts and ‘inexplicably’ low pay.
About 40 staff will go on strike after a ballot in favour of industrial action amid concerns over low wages and the use of zero-hours contracts.
The fast-food chain has been one of the biggest users of zero-hours contracts in Britain, although it has recently started offering workers the option of moving to fixed hours.
It announced in April that workers would be offered a choice of flexible or fixed contracts with minimum guaranteed hours, saying that 86 per cent have chosen to stay on flexible contracts.
The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union said staff want a wage of at least £10 an hour and more secure jobs.
BFAWU national president Ian Hodson said members of the public were offering their support to the workers.
“We fully support the historic decision by these brave workers to stand up and fight back against McDonald’s – a company that has let them down one too many times.
“For far too long, workers in fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s have had to deal with poor working conditions, drastic cuts to employee hours, and even bullying in the workplace – viewed by many as a punishment for joining a union.
The strike has been backed by Jeremy Corbyn. In a statement, the Labour leader said:
“Our party offers support and solidarity to the brave McDonald’s workers, who are making history today. They are standing up for workers’ rights by leading the first ever strike at McDonald’s in the UK.
“Their demands – an end to zero-hours contracts by the end of the year, union recognition and a £10 per hour minimum wage – are just, and should be met.”
McDonald’s said those taking action represented 0.01 per cent of its UK workforce and said the dispute was related to its internal grievance procedures.
The McDonald’s chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, last year took home a total pay package of $15.35m (£11.8m).
McDonald’s says all its hourly pay rates are above the national living wage. For under-18s this is £5.42, for 18- to 20-year-olds it is £6.84, for 21- to 24-year-olds the rate is £8.13 and for over-25s it is £8.31.
McDonald’s claims that three pay rises have been delivered to staff since April 2016, increasing the average hourly rate by 15 per cent.
But McDonald’s said those taking action represented a small fraction of its workforce and that it was related to its internal grievance procedures.
A company spokesman said:
“We can confirm that, following a ballot process, the BFAWU has indicated that a small number of our people representing less than 0.01% of our workforce are intending to strike in two of our 1,270 UK restaurants.
“As per the terms of the ballot, the dispute is solely related to our internal grievance procedures and not concerning pay or contracts.
“McDonald’s UK and its franchisees have delivered three pay rises since April 2016, this has increased the average hourly pay rate by 15%.”