McDonald's VsThe Guardian

Summary: The Guardian publishes an article based on information in Working For Big Mac. Issued with a libel writ, the newspaper apologises.

1987 M No. 4738





Statement in Open Court

Counsel for the Plaintiff: (Mr Richard Walker)

My Lord, in this case I appear for the Plaintiffs, and the Defendants are represented by my friend Miss Menin of Messrs Lovell White Durrant.

The Plaintiff Company is the British subsidiary of the McDonald Corporation, and is the proprietor of the McDonald's fast food restaurants throughout the United Kingdom. The Defendants are Steven Percy and Harriet Lamb who are Journalists, and Guardian Newspapers Limited which is the proprietor and publisher of the Guardian Newspaper. The issue of The Guardian for Friday 21st August 1987 carried a substantial article written by Steven Percy and Harriet Lamb entitled "The squalor behind the bright fast food lights".

The article suggested that McDonald's operated a policy of exploiting young people by employing them in their restaurants in degrading conditions, at excessively low wages; without permitting them to have proper breaks for meals, for excessive hours, and without proper time off. It was also suggested that it was McDonald's policy to maintain unreasonably low staffing levels, and an alleged example was given of a restaurant being closed and employees who sought to engage in trade union activities being dismissed. There is no truth in any of these damaging suggestions.

McDonald's certainly requires hard work and commitment from its employees, including the many young people who work there, but the Company is very concerned to ensure that its workers are well treated and have proper meal breaks and days off, and that they are not required to work excessive hours. Contrary to what was suggested in the article, no employee has ever been dismissed or otherwise victimised by the Company for engaging in trade union activities.

The Defendants now recognise that the allegations against McDonald's in their article were misconceived, and are here by their Solicitor today to express their apologies to McDonald's. They have also agreed to indemnify the Plaintiffs in respect of their costs, and as an earnest of their regret for the publication of this article they have paid a suitable sum of damages, which McDonald's is donating to the Save the Children Fund.

Solicitor for the Defendants:

My Lord, on behalf of Steven Percy, Harriet Lamb, and Guardian Newspapers Limited I endorse all that my learned friend has said. My clients now appreciate that the allegations in their article were incorrect, and through me wish to express their sincere apologies to McDonald's for the wrong done to the Company's reputation.

Counsel for the Plaintiff

My Lord, with that the Plaintiff Company is content, and I therefore ask your Lordship's leave to withdraw the record.