Support striking hospitality workers: interview with a McDonald’s worker

Support striking hospitality workers: interview with a McDonald’s worker

September 28, 2018 0 By Marxist Student

 

On 4 October hospitality workers from McDonald’s, Wetherspoon’s and TGI Friday’s will take strike action demanding decent pay and working conditions. The Marxist Student Federation will be on the McDonald’s picket line in Brixton on Thursday 4 October, and we will be at the strike rally in Leicester Square at 11am on Thursday 4 October. If you’d like to join us there please get in touch below.

Ben Gliniecki from the Marxist Student Federation spoke to one McDonald’s worker about what it’s like to work for that company, and why she supports the workers taking strike action next week. This is what she said:

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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.

Zero-hours contracts

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.

Living standards

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.

Working conditions

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.

The Marxist Student Federation will be on the McDonald’s picket line in Brixton on Thursday 4 October, and we will be at the strike rally in Leicester Square at 11am on Thursday 4 October. If you’d like to join us there please get in touch below.