Taking On Ronald McDonald

Regional Scottish Secretary for the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) Mark McHugh writes exclusively for the Red Robin about how the union are taking on McDonalds in Glasgow and beyond.

In September 2017 the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union members took the brave decision to take on one of the largest employers in the world, McDonalds. This was historic because it was the first time that any McDonalds in the UK had strike action against it. The workers at Cambridge and Crayford restaurants decided enough was enough.

What was the catalyst for such a momentous decision?

On the face of it, they had no chance of progression whilst chained to zero hour contracts and discriminatory wage rates based unbelievably, on their age group. However, as we saw with McDonalds workers at two restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, when young people get together, stand together and organise together, they can achieve a great deal. The young workers at those two McDonalds restaurants joined the BFAWU, sought guidance from organisers and BFAWU officials, and then took the brave decision to face down one of the biggest, most ruthless organisations in the world by way of strike action. Not only were their grievances dealt with, which led to the dismissal of a number of managers, they also secured a pay rise worth 6.7%. Just imagine what could be achieved if two-hundred McDonalds stores took the same action. They actually have the collective strength to help bring about change that could lead to the crushing of casualisation in the UK fast-food industry. They just don’t know it. Why do they not know it? Because they are constantly told that they can’t change anything and “that’s just the way it is”. People use terms such as ‘burger flippers’, which helps fast-food workers to be viewed as somehow less human than other workers.

A Glasgow businessman has recently taken over the three, main city-centre McDonalds restaurants, taking his franchise tally to eighteen, with over 1200 employees. What career opportunities do any of them have that might take them to his level? I’d like to see all 1200 of them knocking on his office door, getting ready to ask him.

There mere fact that McDonalds were the first employer in the UK to undertake such a work practice as Zero Hours Contracts in 1974 should have been decision enough, but it was the fact that these contracts are now enshrined in their everyday struggle. Is it too much then to ask for £10 an hour minimum rate and the right to join a trade union?

It is easy to recognise someone who works in McDonalds by the burn marks from the boiling oil down their arms. Or the worker sitting at a drive-through windows in all weathers being instructed by their supervisors not to close the window between orders. Or the mere fact that some of the McDonalds stores feel the need to employ security guards to deal with the out spill from pubs and clubs in some of the 24hr stores.

This is now a national campaign which has grown from London to most major cities in the U.K, including Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

In Glasgow, many McDonalds workers have heard of the success of their colleagues actions in Crayford and Cambridge, through an organising network of BFAWU community project activists and friends from Momentum, and decided, that in the city of Glasgow, that the ground is ripe, ripe for change and challenge, and their time is now. 

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