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McDonald's workers on strike 'struggling to keep the lights on'

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
A group of McDonalds workers went on strike. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK / Tom Belger
A group of McDonalds workers went on strike. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK / Tom Belger

A group of McDonald’s workers went on strike and led protests across the UK on Tuesday, as part of a ‘McStrike’ campaign for better pay.

Crowds gathered outside Downing Street in central London and other sites across Britain despite heavy rain on a global day of action by fast food workers.

One striking worker told Yahoo Finance UK the world’s biggest fast food chain would face more protests and walk-outs unless it offered staff £15 an hour, more guaranteed hours and a month’s notice of shift rotas.

But a McDonald’s (MCD) spokesman said striking staff “do not represent our people,” adding that unions had organised protests and only nine workers were believed to be on strike of its 130,000-strong workforce.

READ MORE: Biggest fall in UK employment for four years as firms axe part-time staff

Daniel Nkwocha-Dyer, who said he worked at a south London branch, said he was living in poverty, and sometimes struggled to “keep the lights on” and keep food in the fridge.

He said it was “absolutely disgusting” former CEO Steve Easterbrook was set for an estimated $675,000 payout after being dismissed, when workers like him might “just about get a handshake.”

‘I work 40 hours a week and I’m in poverty’

The 24-year-old said deciding to walk out in protest had been one of the “most simple decisions” he had ever made, adding that his manager had accepted the decision.

Nkwocha-Dyer told Yahoo Finance UK: “I believe we deserve to be treated better than this. I earn £8.31 an hour, I work 40 hours a week and I’m in poverty. That’s not right.

“I want to be able to get my own home, move out of my parent’s house, live a life. I can’t do that when I’m earning just over £350 a week. No-one’s going to give me a mortgage on £8.31 an hour.

Daniel Nkwocha-Dyer at a McStrike protest. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK / Tom Belger
Daniel Nkwocha-Dyer at a McStrike protest. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK / Tom Belger

He said a £15-an-hour wage would increase customers’ and staff’s respect for their work, and give him enough money to go abroad on holiday.

“It would entice people to turn it from more of a stepping stone into a career. There are definitely opportunities there.”

Nkwocha-Dyer added: “I’m 24 years old - I want to go on holiday, explore the world, meet people from across planet. I can’t really do that right now.

READ MORE: McDonald’s fires CEO over relationship with colleague

“At the end of the day it’s not the managers doing all the service, not business owners getting food out there every minute- it’s us, the workers.

“We’re outside Downing Street to get the message to the people in power that we won’t stand for this any more.”

He said the success of ‘Fight for $15’ campaign in the US showed the firm could afford higher pay, and had inspired him to take part in the campaign.

Labour: workers have ‘a straightforward demand’

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK / Tom Belger
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK / Tom Belger

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell addressed the dozens of workers and supporters who attended the protest over the road from Downing Street.

He said: “There’s industrial action taking place right the way from Australia, right the way round to America. This is an act of solidarity.”

McDonnell said the workers had a “straightforward demand” for £15 an hour, adding: A number of them on poverty pay and literally can’t afford to live.”

He called on McDonald’s new CEO to “treat workers properly” with a decent wage and an end to zero-hour contracts.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson says Labour under Corbyn ‘detest the profit motive’

He said a Labour government would introduce a “real living wage” of £10 an hour, trade union rights including sectoral collective bargaining and a tax system that “makes sure companies like McDonald’s pay their fair share.”

Asked about what would happen if the Conservatives return to power, he replied: “They won’t.”

The Conservatives did not respond to a request for comment.

McDonald’s: We are extremely disappointed’

But a spokesman for McDonald’s said “very few of our people” were involved in small-scale protests in the UK, claiming workers from just six of its 1,300 branches were on the strike.

He said: “We are extremely disappointed that a very small number of our people in just a handful of our restaurants are considering industrial action today.

“We are committed to investing in our workforce, listening to and doing what is right by them.

“As a growing and successful organisation we, along with our franchisees, will continue to invest in our people and create quality jobs and opportunities for all.

“We regularly review pay and benefits to ensure we are rewarding our people, and we pay well above the government minimum wage. Our pay rates are extremely competitive within our industry and are ahead of many of our competitors."

READ MORE: High court hears Royal Mail bid to stop workers going on strike