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Issue #1797      October 4, 2017

McDonald’s strike “Just the beginning”

BRITAIN: A historic strike at two branches of McDonald’s is “just the start,” John McDonnell said speaking at a rally outside Parliament. The shadow chancellor hailed the workers as an “absolute inspiration.”

Workers at the burger giant’s restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, south-east London, downed aprons in protest at the harassment of workers and the victimisation of union members.

But striking workers told the Morning Star they hoped for workers at many more branches to join a “second wave” of action. Shen Batmaz, a worker at Crayford said BFAWU (Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union) was gaining strength in the Cambridge and Crayford branches.

“This is the first wave, it starts with a handful of workers from two stores, then the next wave hits and it’s going to be quite a few more of us,” she told the Star.

“Then it will just keep growing and growing. We want this to become a movement for all workers on low pay who can’t afford to live.”

The BFAWU, which represents the McDonald’s workers, has sought to emulate the tactics of campaigns for better pay and conditions for fast-food workers in the US and New Zealand. The union wants a £10 an hour minimum wage – now adopted as Labour Party policy – and an end to zero-hour contracts.

McDonnell, who is affectionately known as the “Big Mac” in some left circles, offered Labour’s firm support for the strikers. He said the strike would be “completely” avoidable if bosses would agree to pay workers a living wage and “treated staff with respect.”

“This is just the start. I believe this action will get all these [fast-food] employers round the table,” he told a rally in Westminster.

“Your vision is absolutely inspirational and I’m just so proud of you all.”

Labour MP John Spellar added: “As others have shown, this is a battle that can be won.”

Bosses had an army of strike-breakers from other stores to staff the Cambridge and Crayford branches. Mike Jackson, from the legendary Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group, told the rally he had “been waiting 30 to 40 years for this moment.”

Matt McCarten, whose Unite New Zealand union successfully fought off zero-hour contracts in the fast food sector, said: “Every worker knows, when your arse is on the line, who’s with us. Your courage will make a standard, and you’ll be the first of many thousands who will join.”

The strike is thought to be the first official walkout of McDonald’s workers in Britain. Union activists from as far as Glasgow travelled to London to support the pickets and the Westminster demo.

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said: “As per the terms of the ballot, the dispute is solely related to our internal grievance procedures and not concerning pay or contracts.

“As announced in April this year, together with our franchisees, we are providing our people with the option of a guaranteed hour contract, and all restaurants will have these contracts in place by the end of 2017.

“McDonald’s UK and its franchisees have delivered three pay rises since April 2016, this has increased the average hourly pay rate by 15 per cent.

“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. Our internal processes underpin that commitment.”

Morning Star

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