We publish here reports from those involved in tomorrow’s historic strike of workers from across the notoriously exploitative and precarious food service industry.
Tomorrow, on 4th October, hospitality workers from McDonald’s, Wetherspoon and TGI Fridays will take strike action demanding decent pay and working conditions. These workers are part of a growing movement of workers who all face similar conditions of poverty pay, precarious contracts, and a lack of union recognition.
Workers from two Wetherspoon pubs in Brighton; McDonald’s branches in Brixton, Crayford, Cambridge and Watford; and TGI Fridays workers in Milton Keynes, Covent Garden and Stratford in London will all be going on strike.
Discussing tomorrow’s strike, Matt Rouse, a 22-year-old kitchen worker at the Bright Helm Brighton, said:
“We’re excited and happy to be going on strike. I’ve been inspired by my co-workers as we stand together to call out injustice in our workplaces… We are determined to stand together and make our demands for £10 an hour for all, and union recognition heard. This is only the beginning, we will keep fighting for everyone, for better wages and rights for hospitality workers across the country.”
Boni Adeliyi, TGI Fridays waitress in Milton Keynes, added:
“We’re striking on October 4th to show the strength we have when workers come together. The movement is growing and change is coming! All young workers should join a union – it’s important to know your rights and how to fight for them when they’re being ignored. Together we are stronger!”
McStriker Lauren McCourt, also told us:
“We’re joining with Wetherspoons and TGI Friday’s workers because when we come together, hospitality workers have the power to transform our sector. The days of poverty pay, insecure contracts and lack of respect for workers are numbered.
A living wage of £10/hr for all ages, security of hours, and our right to a union are the basic rights we are fighting for. Hospitality workers are rising up and all those who suffer similar conditions should join with us. We will win.”
Another McStriker explained:
“I don’t think McDonald’s treats its workers in a fair way. We deserve some consistency in our shifts, decent working conditions, and to be paid enough to survive properly. We work hard to make that company a lot of money in profits. We should be treated properly as workers.”
“I support the strike by McDonald’s workers on 4 October because they’re doing it for their basic rights as workers and human beings. And that’s why I think everyone else should support them too.”
We also publish below an interview with another McDonald’s worker, who describes what it’s like to work for the company, and why she supports the workers taking strike action next week.
All these UK workers are part of a global movement that is growing steadily stronger. There will be strike action and protests from fast-food workers around the globe on the same day, fighting for union rights, decent wages and working conditions.
The life of a McDonald’s worker
I started working in a small McDonald’s restaurant in London at the beginning of last summer. At that time of year there’s always a surge in staffing levels because they always get busier over school holidays. In particular they take on younger workers because they’re much cheaper to employ. Workers under 21 years old are paid something like £5.65 an hour. This is nowhere near enough for how hard you have to work. It’s not even enough to survive on properly.
After a few months I was lucky enough to get a pay rise up to £6.56 an hour. But this was because I was basically doing the job of a floor manager – taking all the responsibility for that job, and all the blame when things went wrong, but still not being paid a proper floor manager’s wage. £6.56 an hour is not much money to live on, and not much compensation for the amount of work the job involved.
Over the summer I quite enjoyed working at McDonald’s. The staff were all really friendly and the restaurant was busy. Towards the end of the summer though things started to change. I started getting sent home early by my shift manager because there weren’t as many customers. And obviously if I get sent home early then I don’t get paid for the rest of the shift. They sent me home because I was one of the younger workers, and as soon as I agreed to go home early once, that marked me out as someone they could pressure to do it again.
The shift managers in turn are put under massive pressure by chain managers – people who aren’t in the actual restaurants – to keep what they call “labour percentages” low. In other words people who aren’t actually doing the work are the ones deciding about sending people home, and forcing the shift managers to do their dirty work for them.
My usual shift was 8am to 4pm and I’d get a 45 minute break at around 10:30am (although they took a full hour out of my pay for that break). But what started happening, if the restaurant wasn’t busy, is that we just wouldn’t get called back from our break, sometimes for as long as 90 minutes. And that meant we’d lose even more pay.
The combination of getting sent home early and being forced to take longer breaks meant that it was really difficult to get consistent shifts. This is a massive problem for everyone who works there who has fixed bills to pay.
The average rent for a studio flat in the part of London where I live is around £200 per week excluding bills. On my salary I would only just about make £200 per week as long as I didn’t lose any hours to being sent home early or being forced to take longer breaks, which is far from guaranteed. When you think about the bills that need paying on top of rent, or people who have kids to look after, it becomes impossible to survive on that wage.
I worked with a woman who had a young son at home who she couldn’t support because the managers kept doing things like making her start her shifts 30 minutes late. In the end she had to leave the job because she kept arguing with the managers about this.
Sometimes the restaurants get inspected for cleanliness and staffing assessments. When that happened at the one I worked at loads of us had to stay as late as 11:30pm to prepare the restaurant, but we were told to clock out several hours earlier than that. One time when that happened my shift was supposed to be 9am-5pm but I ended up staying until 10:30pm and only got paid one hour extra for all that time.
There’s a break room in our restaurant, but it’s quite far away from the shop floor. I’ve noticed that if I’m not visible to the managers and obviously hanging around waiting to come off break, then the managers often forget to bring me back onto shift, which means I lose money. This means that we can’t really have proper breaks where we can actually relax.
Support the strike
I don’t think McDonald’s treats its workers in a fair way. We deserve some consistency in our shifts, decent working conditions, and to be paid enough to survive properly. We work hard to make that company a lot of money in profits. We should be treated properly as workers.
I support the strike by McDonald’s workers on 4 October because they’re doing it for their basic rights as workers and human beings. And that’s why I think everyone else should support them too.