The witness outlined the low pay, poor conditions and high staff turnover in the catering industry, and general hostility to trades unions.
I am employed by the Transport and General Worker's Union as a full-time officer with responsibilities for the food and drink industry in London. This includes the catering and fast food sectors. I have held this position since October 1988.
Prior to becoming a union officer I worked in the catering trade as a chef in various West End establishments. I was actively involved in TGWU campaigns to recruit and organise in the industry throughout the 1980's and held various lay positions such as Secretary of the central London Hotel and Catering Branch, and Chairman of the T&G's regional Hotel and Catering committee.
Full cv: (not available for this witness)
The TGWU has been active in the London catering trade since 1972. Our experience over the past 21 years has shown the majority of catering employers to be hostile to the idea of Trade Union representation for their employees. Formal requests for recognition are usually strongly resisted even where the majority of staff are in favour.
We do have some agreement with employers, and our relationship tends to be highly productive once this is established. There have been no industrial disputes within any of our agreements over the past 10 years.
Despite the hard work put into developing such relationships de-recognition was taking place in a number of agreements, usually as a result of non-Union companies taking over Unionised locations.
Our current membership contains several hundred catering workers whose employers will not recognise the union. We have a high turnover of membership which is directly related to the high staff turnover in the industry.
We often receive membership applications from staff in McDonalds. However, the turnover situation has prevented us from developing a successful recruitment strategy.
I believe that despite the part-time and flexible nature of employment in McDonalds, the company could establish a productive relationship with Trade Unions in the UK.
The food retail sector (supermarkets) has similar employment structures, yet many of the major employers have formal agreements with Trade Unions. These agreements are in many ways different from the traditional collective bargaining agreements which exist in manufacturing.
If similar relationships were to be established in the fast food sector I am in no doubt that benefits such as reduced staff turnover would be quickly gained by companies like McDonalds.
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exhibits: Not applicable/available
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