McDonald's Accused of Blatant Racism

Martin Delgado

Evening Standard, October 18, 1995

McDONALD'S was portrayed in the High Court today as a racist, homophobic, anti-trade union company in which 'paranoid' managers competed to reduce staffing levels to save money.

Ian Whittle, who worked at a McDonald's restaurant in Sutton between 1983 and 1986, said staff were encouraged to be management 'sneaks' and were rewarded with favours, promotion and pay rises.

Mr Whittle, 31, from Nottingham, was giving evidence on the 175th day of the ' McLibel' case - the longest libel hearing in British history.

It began in June last year after a small independent pressure group called London Greenpeace issued a six-page leaflet accusing the world's biggest fast food chain of selling food linked to heart disease and cancer and of environmental destruction.

In a statment read to the court today Mr Whittle, now a credit controller for a jewellery firm, described McDonald's as 'blatantly racist', with Asian staff given jobs like cleaning the toilets and picking up litter.

Female cash till staff were chosen according to their looks to attract customers, and managers did nothing to protect gay and lesbian workers from abusive customers.

Burgers were sold after their 'holding time' of eight-10 minutes so as to avoid waste, and egg muffins were often kept for over an hour because they sold so irregularly.

'In fact, McDonald's stopped selling them after the breakfast period because of this', said Mr Whittle, who also alleged that food that had fallen on the floor was sold to customers.

Strict adherence to company rules was impossible because of poor staffing levels and if a worker was ill the rota was altered so that he would not be entitled to sick pay.

'Managers would compete to see who could run the lowest staffed shift and make the most money for the company', Mr Whittle said.

When a group of 15 workers decided to join a trade union, all except Mr Whittle were sacked 'for trivial reasons.'

Some considered sabotaging the restaurant but were persuaded not to by colleagues. After he left the job, Mr Whittle became ill with stomach problems, while experiencing 'a physical craving' to eat McDonald's food.

The company, which has annual sales of over $ 24 billion is suing environmental campaigners Jane Steel and David Morris, both of whom are conducting their own defence in the hearing before Mr Justice Bell.

McDonald's is represented by Richard Rampton QC and costs are expected to reach £1 million.

The case continues

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