witness statement



name: David McGee
section: Employment
for: The Defence
experience: McDonald's worker 1986 to 1987, union organiser


summary:

Only about 5% of the staff at my store disliked the job as much as I did. I thought it was so bad I do not know why I stayed so long. It was a big mistake and even if they offered me 1 million I would not go back.


cv:


I am a student at North London Polytechnic studying geography, and I worked at Seven Sisters Road McDonalds from November 1986 to July 1987

Full cv: (not available for this witness)


full statement:

Introduction

My date of birth is 1st September 1967, I worked at Seven Sisters Road McDonalds from November 1986 to July 1987.

When I started work there, I started as a "Green Badge" The order of Rank from bottom upwards was Green Badge, Yellow Badge, White Badge and then Management. There were very few White Badges in my store. A White Badge was verging on Management.

I am a student at North London Polytechnic, studying geography, I am now in my second year and worked at McDonalds during my first year, purely out of a need for extra money. The Seven Sisters McDonalds was literally just over the road from the Polytechnic and was therefore the most convenient place to work. I saw an advertisement up in the window and went in. The advertisement is permanently on display.

Work

I started on 2.19 per hour. After 6.00 p.m in the evening, the rate went up to approximately to 2.39 per hour. After 11.00 p.m the rate went up again to approximately 2.59 per hour.

The store operated monthly assessments of all members of staff. If you got a high assessment you got a salary rise but this was entirely at the Manager's discretion. An employee had to work very hard to get a rise.

I never got a single rise in the 8 months that I was there, and was also not promoted in any way. Promotion was also entirely at the Managers discretion,

The sort of people who are "successful", in McDonalds terms, were the sort of people who would do literally anything in order to curry favour with Management and were prepared to take no end of misery for very small returns. I would estimate that there were approximately 20% who were very "successful employees", 20% who didn't give a damn about McDonalds like myself - people who were only there because they needed the money - and the rest were somewhere between the two.

Starting The Union

I first became involved with the TGWU after being at McDonalds for about six months. I don't know why I did not get involved any sooner - it just hadn't occurred to me. It might have been an advertisement or a leaflet for the TGWU which sparked off my first visit. Philip Pearson, a TGWU official told me about the legal minimum wage - he gave me a leaflet on it. I did not mention the question of a legal minimum wage to Management - it just did not occur to me to do so. There did not seem any point. In fact, it did not mention any aspect of my contact with the TGWU to the Management.

I joined the TGWU. I also got a large number of leaflets and application forms from Philip Pearson and started talking to People within the store. The people I spoke to were generally very interested in joining, I approached some 30 - 40 employees, and every single one was interested. However, each person was only prepared to join a Union "as long as other people joined". They were not prepared to join on their own since they clearly felt vulnerable. Obviously, they felt some sort of security in numbers. They generally expressed the desire to see a bloc join a union, rather than be pioneers themselves. Furthermore, they also insisted that management were not to know that this had been done.

Most people I approached regarding the union, thought that they would be sacked if they joined. I made all my approaches in strict confidence because employees generally made it auite clear that they were not interested in approaching Management and letting them know what was going on until they were properly organised. They seemed to feel that they needed a strong power base before they could start negotiating.

I am quite convinced that if Management had got wind of what was happening and I had not desisted from my activities, I would have been sacked.

They would not have used the Union as a reason for sacking me, they would have used some other bland and seemingly innocent reason, but they most certainly would have found some reason for doing it. I personally believe very strongly that Management are trained to sack Union members in a way that makes it impossible for the employee to accuse them of doing it for Union reasons. Manaqement are not stupid and they know the employment laws. They know that they would be in serious trouble if they gave as the reason for sacking somebody the fact that that person belonged to a trade union.

It is impossible to pinpoint how Management managed to give these impressions but they most definitely engendered such perceptions. It was partly a matter of rumour; but rumour of which Management were fully aware and did nothing to dispell. Other employees expressed exactly the same fears as I did when I suggested starting a union. They all seemed to think that since there were no unions in McDonalds, McDonalds would be very hostile and that the reason why there were no unions in McDonalds was due to the fact that McDonalds removed anybody who belonged to a union.


Theft Of Union Material

Despite the element of fear, I am very sure that if I had persevered with my attempts, I would have succeeded in joining up the 30 or 10 people who had indicated their interest.

However, my efforts came to an abrupt end when Management stepped in to halt matters. I was away from work for aweek and came in one Sunday night after this week off to find that my locker in the crew room, which contained all the Union membership forms and leaflets, had been hroken into.

The only other item that was in the locker at the time was a pair of shoes, which were still there, but all the literature and forms had gone. The literature and forms were of little value, they could nave easily been replaced. However, the shoes were certainly of some value and yet they had not been removed.

I had my own lock on the locker, a padlock, and this was gone. I was the only person who had a key to the locker. So far as I was aware, this had never happened in the store before, I went to complain to Management immediately. At no time did he mention what was gone from the locker. I just complained that it had been broken into. I spoke to the Manager of the Store, Tony, who said that it was he who had removed the lock from my locker. He claimed that the Company had a right to do this in accordance with my employment contract and also in accordance with a sign which was placed up in the crew room. This sign pointed out that lockers were only meant to be used by crew members for the duration of their shift. No employee was meant to keep a lock on the locker beyond the time when they left the store, they were meant to empty their locker at the end of each shift. The sign warned that in the event of an employee leaving a lock on a locker beyond the end of their shift, Management reserved the right to place their own lock over the employees lock and to charge the employee a fee for the removal of the Management lock. Whilst I accept that the sign was up in the crew room, every single employee had his/her "own" locker on which he or she permanently kept a lock. There was no previous known example of management enforcing this rule.

Tony denied all knowledge of what might have been inside the locker. It was blatantly obvious to me that he was lying. I persisted with my complaints every time the opportunity arose. Approximately a week later, I brought the subject up again in conversation with Tony. On this occasion, Tony said that the locker had been broken open by another crew member, or at least he "presumed this was the case". Tony said that it was not impossible that this was what had happened since other crew members had had their belongings stolen by fellow crew members recently. (This was true, I myself had had a jacket stolen from the crew room shortly before that time) . However, any other thefts that had occurred had not involved locks being broken off lockers. I pressed Tony, saying that I could not see why it was that valueless items had been taken from my locker and the only valuable item that was in there, i.e the shoes, had been left. Tony's response was "so what, what of any interest to me would be in your locker". I did not respond. I did not discuss the locker incident with any of the other crew members except one of my friends Kevin. Kevin was himself very keen on the Union idea.

I informed the Police of this incident. I went to Highbury police Station (just off Seven Sisters Road). The police said that there was no evidence of a break-in. They filled out a report form and absolutely nothing happened. The police refused to look into the matter because they were "over stretched".

After my conversation with Kevin, I approached Tony again and accused him of lying. Tony is a very placid person who is usually most diplomatic and polite. However, on this occasion, Tony became so agitated that he even swore - this was completely unheard of. As he turned to go away, Tony said to me "if you dont like it, you can get out". Tony and I both knew what we were talking about, i.e the Union material, but neither of us ever mentioned it.

After the break-in, but before my last encounter with Tony, I went and told Philip Pearson what had happened. Philip Pearson did absolutely nothing about it, he was very ineffectual. I was quite disappointed about this. I think that Philip Pearson did not give the support that he should have given and was not really forthcoming with any real encouragement.


Resignation

A few days after the final encounter with Tony, I resigned from McDonalds for the following reasons:-

I was being given all the worst jobs. I think that the Management really hated me. I didn't exactly go out of my way to please them. I answered back continuously. I was impolite whilst on the till. I refused to smile continuously at customers when told to do so. I did these things just to spite all the Managers and the five star the most, even more so than Management. The five star yellow-badges had an awful lot of power. I disliked them for their own stupidity; they were treated like dirt by Management and for lousy wages as well. They got absolutely nothing out of it and yet they managed to treat the people below them as badly as they were treated themselves. I think that these people were just on an ego trip and I bad no respect for them whatsoever. I made sure that I did not approach these people when I was trying to recruit for the Union. These people would have reported straight to Management. The people I wanted to enrol were the very people that the five star yellow-badges were kicking around.

Another matter which did not help was that I was thoroughly fed up with working on a Saturday night.

I felt that I was working so many hours and getting so little pay. I was convinced that I was being cheated and not being paid for all the hours that I worked. My average weekly pay was approximately 25.00 maximum. The most I ever got paid in any one week was 35.00. For this I was doing 15 - 20 hours of very hard, physical, sweaty work. I once followed up the fact that my wages appeared to be far too low and did not seem to correspond with the number of hours I believed I had worked. They showed me my clock cards in order to substantiate the amount that they had paid me and these appeared to tally. However, I still did not believe them.

I actually felt quite guilty when I left McDonalds because I felt that I should have seen the Union enrolment through to the end. However, my personal problems were very pressing at the time and I just did not feel that I could stay. I handed on the Union material to another employee who said that he would see the Union work through to the end, but I don't know if he did, I am no longer in touch with that person. I so much wanted to see the Union issue through to the end, that I even considered joining the McDonalds in Manchester just to start a Union.


Anti Union Management

So far as am aware, there is only one McDonalds store in the entire Britist Isles that is unionised; this is the store in Dublin. Otherwise, McDonalds is totally un-unionised. I regularly heard it said by other crew members that if anybody starts a union, "they will get rid of you".

Whilst working at Seven Sisters, I heard a rumour regarding a store which was completely shut down by Management because the crew formed a union. Several employees at Seven Sister's Road had cited this story when I was trying to recruit members for the TGWU. The story was used as the basis for saying "they will sack us all if they find out".


Dismissals

So far as I was aware, there were no regular dismissals from my store. People were sometimes suspended, however. for reasons such as "answering back to Management". I was once suspended because I took a left-over hamburger home after the store had closed, without asking permission. In my store, staff were allowed to take home food that was left over when the store closed, if they asked permission. Permission was never refused, On the occasion when. I was suspended, I did not ask and was suspended for 24 hours. (It is interesting to note that I have seen stated by McDonalds own literature, I believe in the crew handbook, that staff are not allowed to take food home at the end of the day - it must be thrown out.)


Burns

Everyone who worked at the Seven sisters store had burns at one time or another. I remember noticing one black girl in particular who had the most terrible burn down the inside of her arm. The burn looked absolutely horrific, partly because she was black and therefore the raw pink colour of burn burn looked all the more unpleasant.
She was one of the people I approached with regard to joining the Union. I explained to her at the time that if she was a member of the Union, the Union could have made representations on her behalf to ensure that she was properly treated after the accident occurred and also to ensure that such accidents did not occur in thefuture. The girl was very interested in joining the Union.

I had one very bad burn from a chip unit. I was not being paticularly careless at all. The burn was on the underside of my wrist and took a long time to heal. The scar still has not gone. The first aid in the store was totally inadequate. They did not keep any burn spray on the premises. They just told me to put the burn under running water. I was told I was stupid for having been burnt. I went upstairs immediately after burning myself and one of my fellow crew members put a bandage on it far me. I did not see a Doctor.


The Workforce

Approximately 85% of the employees in the store were under 21, and approximately 25% were under 18, I recollect that one girl was sent home generally at 10 o'clock and was not allowed to work past that time. She was the only one who was sent home and I therefore think that she was under 18.

Most of the people who worked there, in fact the overwhelming majority, were students. There were only one or two people working there whom I would describe as "career people".

There were a high proportion of Chinese working there, approximately 15%, and 2 out of the 8 managers were Chinese. The ethnic breakdown of the remainder was approximately as follows:-


Hours

I worked an average of approximately 20 hours per week, I was generally scheduled to work between 6.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m. on Sunday and Monday night, 6.00 p.m. to 11. 00 p.m. on one week day and all day Saturday, 1,00 p.m, to 11.00 p.m. I never usually had to work much more than 15 or 20 minutes beyond my scheduled finishing time.

On a few occasions, I was sent to work in other stores when they were short-staffed. They generally sent me by taxi. I always made it quite clear before I went that I was only prepared to be sent to another store if they would send me back home in a taxi. I did not see any reason why I should pay the transport costs. Although they initially agreed to this, I found that once I had been sent there in a taxi and done my work, they then refused to send me back in a taxi. It was only after strenuous argument with the Management, on each such occasion, that they agreed to pay for a taxi.

So far as I was aware, nobody was ever sent home in a taxi from Seven Sister's McDonald's if they were working late.

At my store there was a full staff who used to come on duty over night to clean up the store. This was a fully scheduled night shift. Every single employee on this shift was black without exception. These people were paid the after 11.00 p.m. rate.

Many employees in the store worked in excess of 39 hours per week in total, mainly because they needed the money. There was no increased salary rate for hours worked in excess of 39. Nobody in the store was aware of the legal minimum wage. The only information pinned on the crew noticeboatd was the Office Shops and Railways Act which people generally found to be incomprehensible.

People were often called in to work on their days off. In fact, I even offered to come in on rest days when I was really short of cash. Generally, however, there was no pressure to work on your rest day. If people had refused there would have been no adverse consequences.


Breaks

During breaks all employees were supposed to get McDonald's food. When I first arrived there we were allowed two hamburgers, a portion of chips, a pie and a drink. After three months this was cut down to one burger instead of two (with all the rest of the trimmings). This was another thing which spurred me on to form a Union. I was angered by the way McDonald's made unilateral changes to the employment contract.

If employees worked under nine hours they got one break, over 9 hours they got two breaks. If they worked over four hours but less than nine hours they got one 45 minute break. If they worked in excess of nine hours they got an extra 45 minutes, However, McDonald's always scheduled shifts from 2 until 11 wherever possible, i,e. not mote than nine hours so they did not have to give the second break.

People regularly worked more than eight hours in each shift, contrary to what was stated in the crew handbook. Furthermore, the number of breaks you were entitled to was calculated by reference to the amount of time that you were scheduled to work and not the amornt of time that you actually did work .

Employees had to ask permission of either the Management or a five star yellow badge (who themselves went and asked a Manager) in order to be entitled to take their break. Sometimes employees were forced to go on their break very early on in the shift, often even just half an hour into that shift. They also were often told to go off for their break at the very end of the shift, sometimes leaving 15 or 30 mins after returning from the break before they were due to go home, Wherever possible Management tried to spread breaks over the whole day. Employees had to clock on and off for breaks.

One had to ask permission to take a drinks break. Sometimes permission was refused even for people working on the grills and fryers. Permission was refused on the basis that the store was "too busy". Even when employees got drinks breaks, they were generally hustled and told to hurry.


Staffing

I was told by one of the Managers, Irving, that the number of staff that the store was able to take depended on the amount of the takings in each till. The two were directly related. Consequently, on Saturday and Sunday, when the store takings were higher, they could take on more staff.

The store was definitely permanently under-staffed. They rarely had the correct number of people at each station.


Unpleasant Jobs

Quite often I was deployed to clean the road outside the store. Management hated me and made me do this sort of job just for spite. I was regularly sent on "litter patrol" and even had to wash the pavement outside the store.

I also worked in the backroom, I was given no protective clothing to go in the freezer - coats were only provided for the litter patrol. These coats were too unhygienic to wear near food because they were so dirty, However, the freezer rooms were regularly kept at a temperature of -20 degrees centigrade and therefore I had no choice but to wear a litter patrol coat. I certainly never had any gloves to wear, which made the job very unpleasant.

One of the rooms at the back of the store, where the cleaning utensils and chemicals were kept, absolutely stank and was permanently flooded, I thought this was extremely unhealthy.

I regularly used to have to shift boxes of burgers, each of which weighed 201b, two at a time, up flights of stairs. Occasionally I would have to carry three boxes at a time if Management insisted. Employees of all ages were asked to carry these boxes. Under 18 year olds were regularly carrying 401b of burgers round the store.

Other duties involved washing steps, mopping floors, preparing food and washing-up. We always used diluted washing-up liquid.


Dangers At Work

I am amazed that there were no major accidents in the store. People could slip easily and if they placed their hands on the grill as they slipped they would be burned for life. There were tiles loose on the kitchen floor and the floor was often greasy. There was regular use of salt, scattered on the floor to absorb the grease, in order to try and prevent slipping.

I think that the design of the floor was very poor. It was very easy to slip on the type of tiles that they had put down. It was quite easy to slide right across the floor. In fact, crew regularly did this intentionally when moving at high speed. If you watch carefully in a McDonald's store when it is busy, you can often see staff skidding intentionally round the kitchen in order to increase their speed.


Training And Employee Development

As well as working on backroom jobs I also worked on all the stations in the front of the store.

I never received any training whatsoever. I neversaw any of the training videos they were supposed to show. So far as I was aware nobody had any formal training at my store. There was a video screen in the manager's office but it was never used for training. I went to two rap sessions but thought they were a total waste of time. They achieved nothing. They were completely designed to suit the interests of McDonald's. If anybody complained, this enabled Management to see who the troublemakers were. Nothing good ever came from a rap session. The only things people ever discussed at these sessions were staff discos etc. People were just too scared to air their grievances.

Anybody who wished was allowed to attend a rap session. Approximately 25 employees used to attend each one and were paid for their time.

One had to pass exams in order to get badge stars. The exams were ridiculously simple. There were also monthly assessments and if you did well in the assessments and the exams you were supposed to get stars. Management used to generally hand out the stars as and when they fancied.

By the time I left I had a yellow badge, awarded to all employees after a month of employment. I never got any Stars.

Only about 5% of the staff at my store disliked the job as much as I did. I thought it was so bad I do not know why I stayed so long. It was a big mistake and even if they offered me 1 million I would not go back.

CONTINUATION STATEMENT OF DAVID McGEE


date signed: 11 April 1988
status: Statement was read out in court under the Civil Evidence Act
references: Not applicable/ available

exhibits: Not applicable/ available

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