Unions, community oppose efforts to cut McDonald's workers’ wages

A May 15 protest against attempts to change the fast food industry award. Photo: Jageth Bandara

More than 25 cars travelled from Thornleigh Oval to a nearby McDonald's in north Sydney on May 15 to demand the multinational company drop its bid to change the Fast Food Industry Award, which would undermine workers’ pay and conditions.

Protesters gathered outside McDonald's to chant: “When workers’ rights are under attack what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” The car convoy showcased placards including: “Touch one, touch all!” and “Australian Industry Group [AI Group], SDA [Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association] and ACTU: Withdraw application to alter award.”

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney Branch and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) are calling on the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the SDA to drop support for McDonald's anti-worker push.

On May 5, the Fair Work Commission knocked back employers’ bid to change the fast-food award, despite backing from the Australian Council of Trade Unions. But it has given them another chance to prove that waiving overtime rates and setting shifts for part-timers were needed to ensure work during the crisis.

Earlier, May 1 Movement spokesperson Paul McAleer said all unions must pressure the ACTU and the SDA to pull back. “These changes attack the conditions of young, low-paid and vulnerable fast food workers.” Many make as little at $8 or $9 an hour.

“The AI Group and the SDA are using COVID-19 as an excuse to push through the same attacks on part-time fast food workers that RAFFWU fought and defeated in the Fair Work Commission in February 2019,” McAleer said.

“The proposed changes effectively casualise part-time work. If passed, tens of thousands of award-reliant fast food workers could lose their set shifts and instead be rostered at the whim of management on a weekly basis.”

Rank-and-file RAFFWU member and a casual hospitality worker Lily O’Sullivan told Green Left that if the proposed changes go through, she’ll be “forced into a part-time category”. “A lot of young and vulnerable workers who will be affected … are willing to stand up for their rights. I encourage all young workers to join their union.”

RAFFWU Sydney organiser Loukas Kakogiannis explained that the changes being sought “seek to completely rewrite the definition of part-time work. Part-time work means fixed rosters with set days and times.”

He said that if not for RAFFWU’s opposition, the changes would have been pushed through secretly “without a single fast food worker consulted”.

“The SDA and the ACTU should be ashamed of lining up on the side of [Attorney General] Christian Porter and McDonalds to attack fast food workers. RAFFWU demands they immediately withdraw their support for the AI Group submission.

“These changes have nothing to do with COVID-19. They have everything to do with giving multinational behemoths, like McDonald's, flexibility to exploit their workers.

“RAFFWU members are rallying today because we aren’t going to sit back and allow some of the most exploited, young, vulnerable, and low-paid workers to be sold out without a fight.”

Robert Car, a May 1 Movement organiser, said: “If the award alteration for fast food workers is successful, a precedent to degrade the pay and conditions of retail workers, nurses, public servants, firies and transport workers will be set.

“We want unions to support young workers by helping maintain their working conditions rather than be complicit in undermining them.”

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