McDonnell set to join McStrike protest at 10 Downing Street

Elliot Chappell

John McDonnell is set to join a ‘McStrike’ protest at 10 Downing Street, where McDonald’s fast food workers will demand decent wages, job security and an end to ‘youth pay rates’.

Speaking ahead of the strike action, the Shadow Chancellor said: “Low pay and insecure work is endemic in the fast food industry. That’s why I helped launch the fast food campaign and support these young workers in their campaign to secure decent wages and conditions.

“A Labour government will take on the big corporations such as McDonalds to stop them from paying out poverty wages. Labour’s commitment to a £10 an hour real living wage and an end to in work poverty will help millions of low-paid workers across the country.”

Workers at six McDonald’s outlets – in Penge, Crayford, Wandsworth Town, Downham, Deptford, Balham and Catford – will go on strike on Tuesday, led by the Bakers Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU). The demands of the workers include:

  • a £15 hourly rate;
  • an end to youth rates;
  • the choice of guaranteed hours of up to 40 hours per week;
  • notice of shifts four weeks in advance;
  • recognition of the BFAWU;
  • to be treated with respect and dignity at work.

The fast food chain saw its first ever strike action in the UK in September 2017. This was the first McDonald’s strike in history, with three main demands of a £10 an hour minimum wage for all workers, an end to exploitative contracts, and union recognition.

In 2018, McDonald’s workers coordinated action with staff at TGI Friday, JD Wetherspoons and Uber. October 2018 saw unprecedented strike action across eight cities supported by unions, campaign groups and the Labour leadership.

This will be the largest strike to date and will take place during the Living Wage Week. The Living Wage Foundation campaigns for businesses to pay the ‘real living wage’ and has around 6,000 business signed up to the voluntary scheme. The real living wage has just gone up to £9.30 for the UK generally and £10.75 in London.

In May, Labour pledged to abolish the youth rate of employment and introduce a £10 minimum hourly rate for all workers. Announcing the plans earlier this year, Jeremy Corbyn said: “Workers should be rewarded for their work, not their age.”

Younger workers are the least likely to be unionised – just 8% of workers between 16 and 24 are in a union, and the figure is less than one-in-five for those between the ages of 25 and 34. More than 30% of workers aged 50 and above are members of a union.

The current statutory minimum wage for those under 25 is £7.70. For those over 25, it’s £8.21 – known as the ‘national living wage’. But the minimum wage for those under 18 is only £4.35 per hour, rising to £6.15 for those aged 18 to 20 and £7.70 for 21 to 24-year-olds.

The strike action comes after claims by campaigners and the BFAWU earlier this year that McDonald’s workers were being subjected to a toxic workplace culture. This involved more than 1,000 reports of harassment, with accounts of predatory staff being moved to different stores instead of being sacked.

McDonald’s franchises or owns more than 37,000 restaurants in 120 countries and has been one of the biggest users of zero-hour contracts in the country. They have more than 120,000 employees in the UK; most are not in union, but the number of unionised workers is growing.

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