|Workers at two McDonald’s restaurants in the UK will go on strike on 4 September, the US Labor Day holiday, in an attempt to coordinate action against the fast food giant with allies around the world.
The announcement of the symbolic date comes after staff at restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, in south-east London, voted overwhelmingly on Friday to go on strike. They are demanding wages of at least £10 an hour, secure contracts with guaranteed hours and formal trade union recognition from McDonald’s.
The choice of Labor Day is intended to signify the workers’ solidarity with fast food employees internationally, according to the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). In previous years, thousands of US fast food employees have participated in Labor Day strikes and demonstrations as part of Fight for 15, a campaign for a $15 (£11.60) hourly wage, coordinated by the Service Employees International Union.
The UK action is taking place with the help of organisers from the Unite union in New Zealand, who are visiting the UK to advise the striking workers. Unite has won significant victories, including a $15 an hour minimum wage and legislation outlawing zero-hours contracts, in New Zealand.
A delegation of workers from Belgium will also be travelling to London to support the UK strike. The BFAWU is calling for international support, and it is hoped that allied unions in other countries will also take part in actions on 4 September. A BFAWU representative said: “In the past we have had action on every continent.”
In April, McDonald’s announced it would offer guaranteed-hours contracts to all employees who wanted them. However, the BFAWU claims that workers at most stores were told nothing about this until workers decided to strike. Organiser Gareth Lane said: “All of a sudden they’ve put it online where workers can see that all workers will have a contract with guaranteed hours by the end of the year. This is a huge victory for these workers who’ve stood up, decided to organise and take this strike action.”
He said the intention of the action on 4 September was to maintain pressure on the chain to deliver on its offer. “We don’t trust McDonald’s to deliver these guaranteed hours to workers,” he said. “We want them to sign, legally, that they’ll give these guaranteed contracts by the end of the year.”
Shen Batmaz, one of the McDonald’s workers going on strike in Crayford who is also a political campaigner, said international support had helped bolster workers’ determination to strike. “For a long time we were told as fast food workers we were really hard to organise because people leave all the time and a lot of us are young people,” she said. “For us to see there were people doing it, not just in the US but all over the world, we knew it was time for us to come together.”
A spokesman for McDonald’s said on Friday: “We can confirm that, following a ballot process, the BFAWU have indicated that a small number of our employees representing less than 0.01% of our workforce are intending to strike in two of our restaurants.”