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McDonald's Workers Are Set to Strike for the First Time in UK History

Union says members have been left with no alternative after the company drastically cut employee hours and workers made allegations of bullying.

Ellie Mae O'Hagan

A McDonald's customer, not a worker

Forty McDonald's workers are set to strike across two outlets in Cambridge and Crayford, Greater London, after the Bakers', Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) announced it was balloting members. If the ballot is successful, it will be the first time in the company's history that McDonald's workers have taken strike action in the UK.

The union says members have been left with no alternative but to consider strike action after the company drastically cut employee hours, and workers made allegations of bullying.

McDonald's workers are also dissatisfied with the company's continued use of zero-hours contracts, despite promises of guaranteed hours. The union claims its members have found themselves unable to meet their rent payments and have been forced out of their homes as a result.

Workers will also be calling for a fair wage of £10 per hour, and the recognition of their right to form a trade union as employees of the company. Tom Holliday, a McDonald's worker at the Cambridge store, told VICE, "We are asking to be treated with dignity and to be paid a decent wage. McDonald's must consider reinvesting its huge amount of net profits back into its work force. "

UK McDonald's workers have taken their inspiration from a growing fast food workers movement in the US, which campaigns for a living wage. The "Fight for $15" campaign – supported by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – has imposed significant pressure on McDonald's, putting more than 10 million workers on the path to $15 an hour. Shen Batmaz, a McDonald's worker at Crayford, says, "This strike in the UK is part of a global movement advocating for fair salaries and decent working conditions. McDonald's should listen to all its employees around the world."

The outcome of the strike ballot will be announced next week. McDonald's has not responded to requests via phone and email for comment.

Update 13:00 17/8: A McDonald's spokesperson contacted VICE after this piece was first published. They said:

"We can confirm that the BFAWU are balloting a small number of our employees about possible industrial action. We have been told that the dispute is solely related to our internal grievance procedures.

"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. "

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