Employment - CEA
Crew member at Marble Arch McDonald's store; October 1986 - March 1987
The witness gives a detailed inside view of working conditions and practices at the Marble Arch branch of McDonald's, outling discrepencies in pay, working conditions, staff facilities, hours worked, the adequacy of the store in terms of food provision aswell as the approach of the management to sales and maximising profits.
I am of the view that McDonalds brain washes its
Not available for this witness.
(not available for this witness)
The majority of the employees worked
well over the 39 hours per week specified in the
The limit was a joke.
Most people did not
object to working over 39 hours because they needed
A few people at the store even did 24 hour
- 1. I was born on 9th December 1963, I worked at the
Marble Arch branch of McDonalds from 9th October 1986
until approximately March 1987.
2. I applied for a job at McDonalds after walking past
the Marble Arch branch and seeing a sign in the window
advertising for staff. I was interviewed by a
Manager, whom I was introduced to as Habeeb. I was
asked a few questions relating to my past experience
and I was then told "You can speak English, you've got
- 3. Everybody at the store was paid fortnightly. I
started on a basic rate of £2.22 per hour, and by the
time I finished there I was on £2.37, after one rise
of 15p per hour. Unlike a lot of other employees, I
spent nearly three months as a "green badge", although
I was aware of the fact that I was only meant to be a
"green badge" for three weeks. However, at Marble
Arch this was not uncommon. I kept on asking for a
new badge during that time but they just did not give
me one, I also asked for a Performance Review on many
occasions, which was a pre-requisite of getting a
pay-rise. Eventually, after much badgering by me, I
was given a Performance Review, which was carried out
by the Assistant Manager, Steve Quinn. He went
through a list of categories on a check list, awarding
marks for particular characteristics, The Check List
was in the form shown in the Crew Handbook on page
After the review, I got an hourly rise of 15p.
Several other staff had a performance review at the
same time as me and only got hourly rises of 5p. I do
not understand why I got 15p.
4. I was given Performance Reviews every couple of weeks
after this and achieved excellent marks, but I never
got any stars. Some people worked at the store for
years and still did not have all their stars. The
system seemed to be completely arbitrary. As far as I
can remember, a written test had to be done in order
to get stars but I was never really very interested.
The only people who were interested in the stars were
people who were looking to go into Management.
star system was absolutely revolting - it was very
patronising, very American, full of hype and
brainwashing. It seemed to me that they just wanted
us to achieve maximum machine-like efficiency.
5. The highest wage I heard of at the store for regular
staff was £3.00 per hour. People earning this money
were not Management, but very close to it. There were
only a couple of such people and they were both going
out with Managers at the branch. There was no real
awareness of a legal minimum wage. However, the
emlployees all considered themselves very much
The Wages Council Order was not pinned up
on the noticeboard in the crew room, or indeed
anywhere else in the branch, The only thing up on the
walls relating to the law was a copy of the Shops and
Factory Act, which was archaic and unreadable, As far
as I was aware, the stars were not connected with the
salary paid. Merit rises were few and far between,
and any rises given were generally the standard
company rises once every four months.
6. I worked Monday to Friday from 7.00 a.m. until
4.00 p.m., and I only ever worked in the backroam and
on the tills, not on any of the cooking jobs.
Occasionally, if the store was very short-staffed, I
was asked to work the odd extra hour, although this
only happened if they were desperate. I generally
refused. I occasionally used to ask the management,
when they approached me to do extra work, why they did
not have stand-by staff available. They just used to
laugh at me.
I remember in particular
one occasion when I was sitting in the crew room
during my break with several other employees. A
Manager burst through the door, pointed successively
at several employees and said "You, you, you and you
,,,,, out". It happened to a friend of mine.
7. The management really did not know how to respond when
of a phenomenon, so they let me get away with it,
although people were regularly dismissed for behaving
like that without notice.
However, it was more common where Management wanted to
get rid of an employee for them to force the unwanted
employee to leave by being particularly unpleasant to
only conclude that it enabled McDonalds to save on
seconds worth of pay, and presumably across the world
this represents quite a saving. All employees were
made to clock on and off each time they took a break.
I was amazed by the fact that if an employee
clocked-out for a break and forgot to clock back on
again, his or her wages were actually docked. This was meant to be a deterrent.
8. The store did not follow the training procedures it
was supposed to. A friend of my brother's worked at a
McDonalds in Dublin and he was shown all sorts of
training videos when he started work, I was not shown
any. The Marble Arch store had a training room and
all sorts of training facilities but they were never
9. The clock used by McDonalds for clocking-on and
clocking-off was extremely unusual. Each "hour" was
divided into 100 minutes instead of 60. I found this
impossible to understand, and could not find anybody
in McDonalds who could give me an explanation.
I myself once came very close to fainting, although I am
not a person given to fainting and I had never felt
like that before. It was entirely due to the fact
that I was not allowed to drink. Drink breaks were
generally cancelled or not allowed when the store was
busy; for example, if a person wanted to go at
1 o'clock and there was no backing, there was no way
he would be allowed to leave even for two minutes.
10. McDonalds never had any heating on in the crew room
(where employees had to go to take their breaks) for
the whole time I was there. The Management used to
claim that the air conditioning had broken down. I
have worked in the building trade for a long time and
I did not believe their story for one minute. It was
nonsense. My belief was that the Management did not
want employees to be comfortable in the room.
conditioning was fully operative in all other parts of
the building and in fact because of the positioning of
the crew room and the way that the air conditioning
system flowed around the building, it was impossible
to believe that air could be supplied to certain parts
of the building to which it was supplied without it
being supplied to the crew room. I had to wear a
sweatshirt a and overcoat just in order to be able to
sit in the crew room during the break. There was
nowhere else to go for the break.
11. I normally got one break of 45 minutes which I would
take at 10.00 a.m., after three hours of work,
However, if for some reason I missed the break at
10.00 a.m. I did not get another chance to take a
break until 2.00 p.m. at the earliest. It might
happen that I missed the 10.00 a.m. break because the
store was short-staffed and busy. If conditions were
hot, it was quite possible that people would
dehydrate. People were often told that they could not
stop to have a drink, and it was a fairly regular
occurrence that people would become dehydrated.
In my experience of the restaurant trade in Ireland,
chefs were always allowed to have drinks if required,
even at peak times. This is considered to be of great
importance in catering work since people who work
close to the stoves can very easily dehydrate. The
situation could certainly have been remedied if there
had been more staff at the store, although there is
probably an optimum number of staff who could work in
that kitchen at any one time. I was amazed by the
general lack of space in the McDonalds kitchen. It
should have been much bigger. I worked for five years
in hotel maintenance, travelling round various hotels
and restuarants in Ireland, repairing and maintaining
kitchen equipment. I have therefore seen a large
number of kitchens in my time and I believe I am in a
very good position to judge how adequate a kitchen
is. The size of the McDonalds kitchen was totally
inadequate. For the quantity of staff and turnover,
it was unbelievably small.
As an example of how the extremely tight attention to
all expenses manifested itself, I used to work in the
backroom, unloading the juggernauts which delivered
various foods on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Two
juggernauts appeared on each delivery, one containing
frozen goods, the other one containing unfrozen.
12. The staff allocation functioned on the basis that each
station in the store - for example, kitchens, lobbies
and backroom - required a set number of employees in
order to be operative. It was therefore not difficult
to see when the store was understaffed at a given
moment. They should have had more staff instead of
overworkinq people - for example, although there were
several grills in the kitchen for the preparation of
hamburgers, McDonalds never used all these grills at
any one time, even at the busiest moments. They
operated on the basis of keeping the bare minimum
going but requiring the employees to work extremely
fast. I could not say that there was certainly a
serious long term understaffing policy, but there was
a slight understaffing squeeze.
13. There were roughly 100 employees at the store, but it
is hard to say with any specificity. It was a very
big store, supposed to be one of the busiest in
Europe. The majority of staff - perhaps 608 - were
non-white. Of those who were white, the majority were
foreigners: a lot of Italians, a few Spanish and so
on. The non-whites were Ghanaians, Nigerians,
Afro-Caribbeans, Asians and Chinese. The Friday
evening shift was known as "the Chinese shift" since
most of the staff who worked at that time were
14. Most of the people on my shift were over 18 and I
certainly did not know of anybody who was under 16.
On the evening shifts they may have been younger, but
I knew nothing about the other shifts and generally
never met people on those shifts.
15. There were budget ratios for absolutely every overhead
that could possibly be incurred in the store. Every
single expense was measured in terms of its percentage
of total sales, even down to items of cleaning
materials. I knew that staff costs were not allowed
to exceed 15% of turnover: I cannot remember from whom
I first heard this, but it was definitely someone in
Management- I got on well the lower management and
could generally find out anything I wanted to know
from them. The Manager Jim Atkinson, used to brag
about the various figures for sales and overheads to
the Area Manager, and I overheard such conversations
frequently. The budget ratios seemed to be of great
importance in such discussions.
During the winter months when I had to go into the
yard to unload the trucks, it was often very cold. I
also had to go into the walk-in freezers, working
there for lengthy periods in temperatures of minus 20
centigrade. Despite repeated requests, the company
refused to provide any clothing to make this job less
unpleasant. I had to wear my own jacket in order to
keep warm and the management refused to buy gloves.
Management also refused to buy rubber gloves for
people working in the backroom on various duties which
involved the use of highly abrasive chemicals and
Certain people developed skin rashes from
using cleaning liquids and regular requests were made
to Management for gloves, but they were always
declined. People who had developed such skin
conditions worked on the preparation of food, which I
understood to be illegal and certainly most unhealthy.
17. With regard to inspection by outside agencies such as
the Health Inspectorate, as far as I am aware there
had been major cutbacks in Health Inspectors and such
a vast increase in the number of fastfood outlets that
the Inspectors could not keep up. There did not seem
to be much control. A Manager from McDonalds came
over from the USA once to inspect - the staff were
told we had to smile and be on our best behaviour. We
were not aware of his visit as he came in as a
customer, but we were told subsequently that he had
been satisfied with what he had seen.
from the Head Office in the U.K. used to come in
fairly regularly as well. On one occasion "Mr. Big
Mac (U.K.)" himself came in to the store. He was a
highly patronising American. I was disgusted by the
man - he kept putting his arm round the Managers and
talking to them in an appalling way.
18. I am of the view that McDonalds brain washes its
employees. The Training Manual was extensive, pumping
vast amounts of information down the hierarchy. The
whole system worked by having large amounts of
information regarding procedures constantly pumped
downwards in an incessant flow. The system cannot
really go wrong at all, it is so mechanised. There is
a chain of command from the man at the top right down
to the person who cleans the toilets, and everyone is
expected to know their procedure. In the crew room,
for example, one is expected to read all procedure
documents put up on the notice boards regarding things
such as how to make Big Macs.
19. No-one ever mentioned a Trade Union while I was
there, I have no time for Unions personally, and in
the Republic of Ireland, there is enough employee
protection by law for Unions to be basically
unnecessary. I was surprised when I first came over
to England by how little protection employees are
given under the law, so I understand why things are
different with regard to Unions.
employees were not interested in anything like Unions
- they just wanted the work. Other employees were not
interested either. Unions were just not an issue
which seemed at all relevant to anybody at McDonalds.
Back in Ireland, I used to work for a hotel group as a
kitchen electrician. The whole industry was unionised
and everyone down to the most menial employee earned
20. The general Management
practice was that where a person was not liked or was
perceived not to be pulling his or her weight, that
person's life was made a misery and he or she
generally left. I believe that this attitude and mentality
is completely drilled into the McDonalds Management
21. I do not regret working at McDonalds, but I did not
particularly enjoy it. I would describe the
McDonalds' style of employment as being similar to
rats running round a maze, being prodded with an
electric probe in order to correct deviation.
24 hour shifts (19)
One Person I can remember working 24 hours shifts was Joe. I
can't remember his second name. I can't remember any dates.
More than 39 hours in a week (20)
More than half the full time staff worked for more than 39
hours. This was quite regularly although I don't have any
dates or names of anybody who did so. I can't remember
I rarely did overtime. The reason I know that other people
did it was because it was common knowledge and that they
had told me.
More than 5 hours without a break (29)
I don't have any names or dates but this happened nearly
every day of the week, I remember on one occasion I nearly
passed out because I wasn't getting a break during a ve ry
Pressure to follow prescribed steps (36)
I was trained to follow prescribed steps. Someone called
Susan trained me. I don't know her second name.
There were tests for people every so often for them to earn
their stars. This would occur with a manager standing or
sitting behind the person and watching. There was a test
The managers that did this were Steve Quinn, Mark (I don't
know his second name), two managers both called Jenny and
the main manager Jim Atkinson.
In training we were all told to look happy. I don't think
much would happen if we didn't smile though.
The work that we had to do in the freezers was called stock
rotation. This was where stock was put at the back when it
came in and older stock was pushed to the front, This was
about 3 or 4 times a week.
Sometimes it would take up to 2 hours to do this. I did
this in the Marble Arch outlet. I asked for stock handlers'
gloves and overalls or stock jackets. I asked the assistant
manager Steve Quinn. He said that they didn't have any such
warm clothing or equipment. I asked whether they were going
to get any and he said No.
I don't remember anyone particularly getting ill or being
injured as a result of this.
There were chemicals for washing up. There was a special
liquid for cleaning stainless steel. This was also used for
cleaning the diffusers for the lights. I don't remember
what it was called.
I can't remember the names of anyone who got skin rashes.
It was reported to mangement but I can't remember to whom.
Target figures (47)
It was common knowledge that this targret figure was 15% so
I am not able to give any more details than that.
Calculation of revenue every hour (48)
I don't know anything about this.
Levels Of takings (49)
The takings at the Marble Arch branch never fell.
New staff and falling sales (53)
I don't know anything about whether this happened or not.
Hostility to Trade Unions (57)
This matter was never brought up and I had no individua1
instances of hostility to Trade Unions.
Repercussions on complaints (60)
There was only one rap session whilst I was there. I don't
remember any repercussions of any complaints being made.
Discrimination against Trade Unionists (62)
I don't remember any such discrimination.
July 27, 1993
references: Not applicable/available
Statement was read out in court under the Civil Evidence Act.
exhibits: Not applicable/ available