Lewisham McDonald’s strikers join march on Downing Street

The striking workers on the march. Pic: Charles Woodham

Striking McDonald’s workers from Lewisham joined dozens of others yesterday in a march on Downing Street to protest at low wages and zero hour contracts.

They were joined by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who made a speech to the workers.

Reportedly six stores across south London were impacted by the strikes, with the aim being to cause major disruption to the Catford, Deptford and Downham stores, all in Lewisham. Other London outlets were also affected.

The ‘McStrike’ follows industrial action taken in taken in 2017 and 2018 against the fast food chain.

Protestors argue that the minimum wage is not enough to live on in London, and that a zero-hour contract does not give workers job stability.

“We just want the basics” said Melissa Evans, a McDonald’s worker and striker, “I just want to be able to feed my son, have gas and electric and be able to get on the bus.”

Evans, who works at the Wandsworth Town store, said: “We all need the same thing, a decent standard of living to be able to enjoy life. As it stands, we can’t! We can’t even think about having fun, because the next day we have got to go to work again. It is pure stress, constant stress, that’s why we need £15 pound an hour and guaranteed contracts. It’s a no brainer.  We need a stable life, we need stability.”

John McDonnell and protestors outside Downing Street. Pic: Charles Woodham

In a statement to Eastlondonlines, McDonald’s said: “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.”

However, McDonnell pledged Labour’s support to the fast food worker’s plea for a £15 minimum wage. McDonnell said: “We are not asking for the earth, we are just asking for these workers to be treated decently by a company whose wealth they create.”

McDonnell continued: “It isn’t much to ask that a company likes McDonald’s, that makes billions of pounds in profits just pays their workers decent wages treats them properly.”

The New York Times reported that Danish McDonald’s already pay workers the equivalent of £15 an hour, with prices for food only marginally increased.

McDonnell being interviewed. Pic: Charles Woodham

When asked about the future of the strikes, Evans said: “We will strike again and we will strike again. We will keep organising.  The longer it takes [McDonald’s] to come to the table, the bigger this is going to get.  There are too many McDonald’s workers out there suffering right now.”

In a further comment, McDonald’s told Eastlondonlines that these workers “do not represent our people.” Adding that the strikes were a “tiny proportion of our 130,000 workforce and 1,300 restaurants … We are committed to investing in our workforce, listening to and doing what is right by them.”

The Shadow Chancellor told the crowd that if Labour were to win the general election on December 12, he would be inviting all of yesterday’s McDonald’s strikers into Number 11, rather than letting them protest outside in the rain.

He added: “In that first Queens Speech there will be legislation that gives trade union workers employment rights and trade union rights from day one of the Labour government.”

When asked what he would say to the CEO’s of McDonald’s and other companies alike, McDonnell was clear: “The most important thing is they pay the workers properly and pay them a decent wage, get them off 0 hour contracts and give them proper hours of work. And also, pay your taxes.”

McDonnell also stressed the importance of Labour’s sectoral collective bargaining plans. These would mean that if McDonald’s workers were to be successful in their demands, these agreements would benefit all fast food workers.

McDonnell clarified: “We will ensure that we will restore sectoral collective bargaining across the whole of society.  To protect workers and to enable them to share in the wealth they have helped create.”

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