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Why we are joining the McStrike action

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lauren McCourt, centre, joined protesters demonstrating at at McDonald’s

Workers from McDonald’s, JD Wetherspoon and TGI Fridays are joining UberEats riders in a strike over pay. Three women taking part in a rally in London explain why they think staff should be paid £10 an hour.

‘Everyone I worked with was scraping to get by’

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Staff from several branches of McDonald’s are taking part in the so-called McStrike

Lauren Townsend, who has worked as a waitress at a TGIs in Milton Keynes since 2010, earns £7.83 an hour – which is the minimum wage for over 25s.

She thinks a wage of £10 an hour “would be enough for everybody to support themselves”.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask in a multimillion-pound company,” the 27-year-old said.

“The way I see it, if they could legally pay us less they would.”

University student Elsie Bradley Middle has worked at a Wetherspoons in Brighton since September last year.

The 20-year-old says the average wage for staff is not much more than £8 an hour which “isn’t sustainable to live on”.

“I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve worked late nights and then had to get up early for uni.

“It’s difficult to find the balance and make enough time for my degree.”

Image copyright War on Want
Image caption Lauren Townsend, Lauren McCourt and Elsie Bradley Middle are all protesting

Lauren McCourt, who worked in a McDonald’s in Manchester from September 2016 until May, is joining the rally to support her former colleagues.

“Where I worked we were paid 5p above the minimum wage and then they put it up to 13p when they announced the strike ballots,” says the 23-year-old.

“McDonald’s is a multibillion-pound company and most people that work there are struggling to get by.

“It’s a massive struggle; everyone I worked with was scraping to get by, living in shoddy accommodation.

“People end up over-working because that’s the only way they can pay their rent.”

‘We’ve only got one pair of hands’

Image copyright PA
Image caption TGI Fridays staff in Milton Keynes and two London branches are joining the rally

Lauren McCourt says staff hours get cut at McDonald’s during low sale periods like the summer and after the new year.

“They cut it to a point where you can’t manage. We are having to run around and do the jobs of three or four people at once.

“And then you get blamed when things go wrong. You end up with worse quality food and longer waiting times.”

Elsie, who works about 20 to 25 hours a week at the pub, adds: “We have quite a high staff turnover.

“There are a lot of times where there isn’t enough staff on shifts, especially busy weeks like freshers’ week or bank holidays.

“It can feel quite discouraging working in [those] conditions.”

Image copyright Unite Community Camden
Image caption The Unite Community Camden branch says young protesters have joined their mums on the picket

Lauren Townsend says she used to cover a section of about six or seven tables during a shift but that has almost doubled over the past eight years.

“You try your best but if the food is taking longer because the kitchen is understaffed, and we’ve got extra tables and you’re expected to give every child an animal balloon and do magic tricks at the table, it just becomes ridiculous.

“A lot of us take pride in our work, we keep a smiley face but we’ve only got one pair of hands and feet.

“TGIs used to retain staff which is unusual but with this last couple of years we’ve seen a lot of long-term members of staff leave.”

‘Work becomes your life’

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Workers from McDonald’s also went on strike last year

McDonald’s calls its contracts “flexible” instead of zero hours, but according to Lauren McCourt staff don’t know how to get a “fixed” – or permanent – contract.

“We only get our schedule a few days in advance. We have no say in what days we work, which leaves you with no control over your life.

“Work becomes your life, which you don’t want. You can’t plan anything.”

McDonald’s says it has offered staff a choice between fixed and flexible contracts and “80% have made the decision to stay on a flexible contract”.

Lauren Townsend says TGIs tells workers they are not on a zero-hours contract.

“But in the small print it says they reserve the right to increase or decrease your hours,” she adds.

Lauren also says changes to TGI’s tipping policy have meant she no longer “doubles her pay in a good week” as she used to.

“We really shouldn’t have to rely on the generosity of the public to make ends meet, we should be on a good enough wage,” she says.

McDonald’s does not allow employees to receive tips, which Elsie says is the same at Wetherspoons, though their website says different.

“We are literally just working for the wage we get which makes it more important,” she added.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-45731076

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