witness statement

name: Siamak Alimi
section: Employment
for: The Defence
experience: McDonald's Training Squad, Colchester, 1985 - 1987


In the winter of 1987 the air conditioning broke down at the Colchester store. Crew members measured the temperature at the back of the store and found it to be 11C and 8C at the counter. Someone tried to organise a walkout. Ray Cotton, the area supervisor was informed and as a way of 'heating up the workers' Sally, the floor manager, handed out T-shirts. The worker responsible for organising the walkout was warned against collective activity, and over a period of time his hours were cut and he was denied promotion eventhough according to the witness he warranted it. Two months after the planned walkout this worker left the store. The witness gives further details concerning working conditions, in-store management strategy and abuses of staff working practices.


full-time post-graduate student at Berkbeck College, London University. Crew Member and Training Squad at McDonalds.

Full cv: (not available for this witness)

full statement:

I am 32 years old. I was employed at McDonalds store in Colchester from 7th October 1985 until [end of August '87]. By the time I left, I was a member of the Training Squad, the highest non-management position. I am currently a full-time post-graduate student at Berkbeck College, London University.

I had no connection with Steven Percy ("SP") and Harriet Lamb ("HL") prior to publication of the TICL booklet. When I read The Guardian article, I got in touch with TICL to obtain a copy of the booklet. I also asked to be put in touch with the two people who wrote the article and the booklet because I was looking to write a follow up article.

I wanted to expand on the story because I thought that, whilst everything that SP and HL had said was correct, they had left a lot of issues incomplete. For example, I think there is a lot more that can be said about McDonalds' attitude to Trade Unions, although more research would have to be done to get the facts together. I also think that breaches of labour laws warranted further attention, e.g. examples of girls under the age of eighteen being kept past 10 o'clock at night in McDonalds stores.

Work At Colchester

Whilst working at the Colchester store, I was told by the Managers (particularly the floor manager, Simon Gibney) that if anyone joined a Union or even seriously considered joining a union, they would be sacked. However, I was told that the Management would not attribute the sacking to trade union activities. A different reason would be given or the Management would simply make life unpleasant so that the crew member left. I do not want Simon Gibney to be named at all in these proceedings since, so far as I am aware, Simon Gibney still works at McDonalds and I have no doubt that McDonalds will attack him. Simon Gibney would not be prepared to give evidence against McDonalds in Court - he is very committed to his career at McDonalds.

One employee, Paul Jackson, was sacked because he was known to want to form a Union amongst the crew members. He was also said to be a communist but I am not entirely convinced that this latter point is correct. Paul Jackson was sacked for "gross misconduct". I have not seen Paul Jackson since he was dismissed from the store. I was told by Simon Gibney, whom I believe to be 100% reliable in this case, that Jackson was dismissed because of his anti-Management activities. During one conversation I had with Simon Gibney he referred to Jackson as being a member of the MFF - McDonalds Freedom Fighters. I was not entirely sure whether the organisation referred to was a genuine organisation to which Paul Jackson belonged. I rather think that Gibney was referring to this organisation tongue in cheek. However, the basic import of what he was saying was quite clear; Jackson was dismissed because he was seen to be organising the workers against the Management. On one occasion I was talking to a few crew members whilst I was on duty. I said that I was thinking of joining a union. I in fact knew that I could not join a union but I said this just in order to see what the response of my fellow crew members would be. Somehow it then got back to Management in the store and the First Assistant Manager, Trudy Jones (now First Assistant manager at the Norwich Store) came and said to me and a group of fellow crew members who were standing around together; "who was talking about unions yesterday - we don't wany anyone talking about Unions in this place". With that she walked away.

I also recollect that on one occasion I asked another of the floor managers, Steve Harney, why it was that people at McDonalds could not join Trade Unions. Steve Harney replied that this was because people at McDonalds "had flexible skills". By this he meant that they were were required to work on any particular duties that Management dictated. This was a typical management response to the issue. Most people were not convinced by the argument and they realised that it was basically nonsense.

It was not uncommon for Trudie Jones to be so unpleasant that she had people in tears; particularly newcomers. When McDonalds first opened a store at Clacton, an event which occurred while I was working in Colchester, one of the people whom McDonalds were hiring to work at the new Clacton store was sent for preliminary training to my store. Trudie Jones was given the job of training him. She had him on the grills for several hours trying to learn how to cook the burgers. During one such shift at busy lunchtime, he could not get the technique correct and eventually broke down in tears just from the sheer pressure of being continually harrangued and shouted at. I cannot remember the name of this person but I think that he still works at Clacton. This type of incident happened more regularly with the female staff. Trudie Jones was renowned for putting people under excessive pressure, all in the name of "good training".

While I was working at the store in Colchester, I was not on the phone at home. Often I was required to work long after my shift was meant to finish, since I was generally working on the "close" shift. Regularly, I would not finish until 3/4 a.m. or even 6/7 a.m. I told Management repeatedly that I did not like having to do this because my wife would be on her own all night, not knowing where I was because she could not be contacted by telephone. I said that whenever I was going to be required to work later than my scheduled hours, I wanted advance notice so as to be able to inform my wife. Unfortunately, this procedure was not followed by McDonalds. On one particular occasion when I was asked to work late without having been given notice, I was so annoyed by this that I protested and in fact got three or four other crew members to join in with my protest. We were all campaigning against having to work late shifts without notice. We were not complaining about late shifts per se. The day after this event, Trudie Jones took me to one side and told me in no uncertain terms that "we do not want such protests here."

With regard to the story in the Guardian article about McDonalds closing a store and dismissing the entire staff because they formed a union, I had definitely heard this story independently of the Guardian. I heard it from my sister who worked in the Woolwich McDonalds. When I mentioned this story to members of the Management at the Colchester store, they neither confirmed nor denied that it was true.

Long Hours

In my store, full-time staff were scheduled for two main shifts - 7.00 a.m to 3/4 p.m and 4.00 p.m to 12.00 p.m. People on the late shift were meant to finish at 12.00 since the store closed at 11.00 p.m (except on Fridays and Saturdays when it closed at 12.00 p.m.). When McDonalds calculated the amount of time that we were allowed for our break and the amount of food that we were allowed to take during that time, they based their calculations on the number of hours we were scheduled to work and not the number of hours we actually did work. Consequently, employees who worked extra time beyond their scheduled shifts did not get the correct amount of break or food.

When I was working the late shift, I would quite often not finish until 3/4 a.m. At some times of the year, this would occur as regularly as two or three times a week. Late finishes like this also occurred wherever there was going to be a visit from the Head Office or Area Supervisor. Somebody from Head Office often came once every two weeks and the Area Supervisor might appear as often as 3 or 4 times a week. Where one of these inspections was scheduled, the store usually found out in advance and in order to get everything ship-shape in time, the crew invariably had to work very late into the night. Officially, Head Office were not meant to know about these very late sessions. McDonalds employees were meant to be able to keep the stores in good shape during scheduled hours. However, I am positive that Area and Head office knew exactly what was happening but turned a blind eye to it.

I knew of cases where employees in my store worked as much as 26 hours in a row. This occurred where people were scheduled to work a late shift one day, the late shift extended on until 6.00 or 7.00 in the morning and then they were scheduled to come back on duty at that time. I myself worked occasional sixteen hour shifts - from 12.00 a.m to about 4.00 a.m. I worked 10 hour shifts very often.

I occasionally refused to work a late shift past the scheduled finishing time, or indicated that I did not wish to re-start at 7.00 a.m. after a very late close. I was told in such situations that I just had to because I was "a flexible worker". Management would also cut the number of scheduled work hours of anyone who refused to do the extra hours on a late shift etc. This was done so that eventually the person could not survive on the money that he/she was getting from the job and would have to leave. I am positive that this technique was used directly for that purpose - crew members were told that if they did not comply with late closes etc they would be given shorter scheduled hours or priority would be given to others when the shift scheduling was being done. Crew members therefore had little choice but to comply.

I brought up the issue of late closes at a rap session chaired by the Area Supervisor. The Area Supervisor said that he could not promise to give notice since sometimes he did not know himself, until shortly beforehand, that he would be calling.

It is incidents like that referred to above which enable me to be sure that the Area Supervisors knew only too well about late closes but turned a blind eye to them. In any event, if there are only two or three stores in a particular area, the Area Supervisor is in contact with each store almost daily and therefore it is impossible to hide late closes.

If late shift work would involve a female employee under the age of 18 carrying on past 10 o'clock, or a male employee under the age of 18 carrying on past 12 o'clock, they would be asked if they wanted to work past these hours. If they agreed, they would in fact work the same hours as anyone else. Most people who were asked did not agree to do the extra hours, but a few did and these few were always the ones who were asked since it was taken for granted that they would carry on. The Management did not put pressure on under eighteen-year-olds to work these hours. Some worked extremely long shifts up until perhaps 6.00 a.m.

One of the people I referred to earlier as having worked 26 hour shifts was a 17 year old girl. I specifically remember that on one occasion, having worked that number of hours, the girl could barely stand on her feet and was close to collapse. As far as I know she worked those sort of hours because she desperately needed the money. She had problems at home with her parents and had to leave home and support herself. Sometimes she did not want to work such long hours but they would phone her up and threaten that if she didn't do the hours they would not offer her the "overtime" again. They knew that she needed the extra hours and took advantage of this fact. Other kinds of pressure were applied. For example, employees such as she were told that they would not be promoted if they did not do the extra hours. Some people, if they had been there perhaps for a year or more, did not want to find that they were back at the bottom of the promotion ladder again, in another store or in another line of work altogether, and they would therefore stay. They had too much to lose by this stage. Accordingly, all the extra time would just become part and parcel of what they needed to do in order to keep going and get promotion. People came to terms with it as a fact of life.

Education Affected

While I was at Colchester, one of the full-time crew members, a 17 year old male, had decided to go part-time and do his A'levels by evening course. After having announced this to Management, he was approached by the First Manager who said that he wanted a chat with the employee because he wanted to make him an offer he could not refuse. I knew that the boy was going for this chat and knew what had been said by the Manager in advance. After the chat had taken place, the boy announced that he had given up the idea of doing his A'levels and now wanted to stay on full-time. Later the boy told me that the change of heart was a direct consequence of the meeting but he never told me what was offered to him. I believe that the Manager offered the boy promotion or some other incentive in order to make him give up the idea of studying. Prior to his meeting with the Manager, the boy had said how pleased his parents were that he was going to go back and do his A'levels. They had even offered him all sorts of gifts as incentives to achievement. However, after the meeting with Management, the boy started doing very long hours at McDonalds and had lost all interest in studying. The boy's name was Adrian Barrett.

Labour Laws Broken - False Records Kept

Where an employee, under the age of eighteen, had to work beyond the legally permitted hour, the employee had to clock out at the legal time and then Management would write on his/her card something like "bonus - x hours", or simply "add on x". Obviously, there was no mention on the card of the hours worked for this bonus or extra money. However, occasionally under-eighteen-year-olds did work the extra hours but there was no record made of them on the clock card, so that when it came to pay-day they could not prove that they had worked the extra hours and therefore did not get paid for them. I think that the failure to write the extra hours down on the clock card was accidental.


The position with regard to employees receiving a break, where they worked beyond their scheduled hours, was unregulated and often unfair. Once the scheduled shift time had passed and it was clear that we were going to be there several more hours, the crew members used to have a quick break, but only if the Manager was not around to see. We had to take our break in secret. Once the official shift was over, we could not take a break unless Management agreed. Management would only generally give breaks if they were feeling generous. However, most times crew managed to get a 10 or 20 minute break, depending on which Manager was on duty. There was no certainty about this because it was entirely at the Managers discretion.

When I was on the 4.00 p.m. until 12.00 p.m. shift I might often get sent on my break at 5.00 p.m. with no break thereafter. I believe that this was illegal since employees have to have a break every four hours. Certainly, all crew breaks were over by 7.00 p.m. on the evening shift. Nobody ever went after that time and most were sent for their breaks before 6.00 p.m. I was in a good position to know how much break people were given because as a training squad I was one of the people in charge of sending people on their breaks and rotating staff accordingly. I was under specific instructions from management that I had to send people on their breaks before the store became busy.

Labour Stretched

I worked, on average, 6 days a week and could do anything between 32-60 hours per week. Part-timers were generally there just to fill in the gaps where there was nobody else to work. There was no difference in the hours worked by a full-time worker simply because that person was under eighteen.

People were often phoned up and asked to come in to work on their rest day. Those who were rung generally did come into work for similar reasons to the reasons why people worked past their scheduled hours. Pressure was put on them and they were made to fear that their work hours would be cut down. Generally, however, Management always turned to those people who they knew needed the extra hours and there is no doubt that sometimes people were quite prepared to come in on their rest day anyway. However, Management sometimes went too far and took advantage of the situation.

Nobody was ever allowed to take a taxi home paid by McDonalds if they had worked a late shift. I only lived 10 minutes walk away so I had no worries, but I complained, five or six times, that I thought that it was wrong that women were left to make their own way home at 3.00 a.m. and other such times. Some employees in fact had to get taxis and pay for them themselves. If it was nearly pay day and crew members did not have any money left, they would have no choice but to walk home, and this occurred regularly. In a few other stores, for example Basildon, people used to get taxis paid for by McDdnalds. When I drew this inconsistency to the attention of Management, they told me that all stores outside inner London did not give taxi fares. I pointed out that Basildon was outside inner London - the Floor Manager I was addressing just laughed. I could not get a decent answer out of Management and eventually Management got very cross with me for complaining. I threatened to write to Head Office and tell them about the taxi issue because I knew that it was meant to be a rule that people were given their taxi fare where they had been working very late at night. I was about to leave McDonalds at this stage. I was told that if I wrote to Head Office the Store Managers could create problems for me after I left, when called upon to give references for a future job. Once I had left, I decided that I was going to write to Head Office about the taxi issue. I did not do so because this case came up and I thought that this was a much better way in which to express my complaints.

Calculating Staffing Levels

Staffing levels were calculated as a percentage of sales. The level of labour costs at my store could be and very often was as low as 12% of sales. I got this information from the Managers and I occassionally saw the records. I was also told by the Managers, but am not entirely sure that I remember correctly, that the target set for the store was 17%. I learnt from Management, in the course of time, that the lower they pushed their staff costs as a proportion of sales the more praise they got from Head Office. In my store they had electronic tills. At any time of the day a print out could be obtained from these tills which contained information about volume and value of sales. So that sales and labour costs could be monitored accurately. Management used to obtain a printout at the end of the day and calculate their manning levels in that way daily.

There was definitely a great deal of pressure on the store to keep staffing levels low. This was plainly obvious from the fact that the Managers were generally happy on days when they had managed to keep their staff costs low compared to turnover, and were generally unhappy on days when the staff costs had been high compared to turnover.

Management often used to send people home early, sometimes as much as two or four hours early. This would occur where the store would go unexpectedly quiet and Management had plainly become worried that their turnover/salary ratio would be poor for that day. Most people were quite happy at the time to be sent home, but generally regretted it once pay-day came around. At the time, they were just happy to get out of the place. Some people who were asked too often to go home did in fact get quite cross and would refused to go. Even if they refused, they were sent home nevertheless. I often overheard Managers instructing their deputies to pick on a particular crew member to be sent home, for example a person who had a creased uniform or needed a hair cut. These people were sent home even if they didn't want to go, but they were certainly allowed to stay and work in the store with a creased uniform or long hair when the store was busy.

Wintry Weather Work

When I was working last winter in the extremely cold weather conditions, the working temperature indoors was measured by the staff and was shown to be 6 degrees centigrade inside the grill area. So far as I am aware, the law requires that the temperature should be a minimum of 16 degrees centigrade. It was impossible to work in these conditions. Members ot staff were complaining about the problem and, by way of answer, were given a T-shirt to wear underneath their clothing. I and several other crew members tried to organise a staff walk-out because it was so unpleasant to work in these conditions. This was not successful. Afterwards, the ring leaders of this little revolt were penalised for their activities. We were given warnings regarding our behaviour, shouted at and generally given bad jobs e.g. cleaning the toilets. Life was made unpleasant for us. I was only in the store one day out of several in which these temperature conditions prevailed; this was because I was on holiday the rest of the time. However, even that one day of work was so unpleasant that I had to try and do something about it. The reason for this temperature problem was that the air conditioning was faulty in the store. Management refused to repair it.

I was generally not pushed around at the store as much as other staff. I made it quite clear from early on that I knew my rights and was not at all interested in promotion. Partly due to my personal friendly relation with certain mangers and floor managers and partly because of my knowledge of my rights, I generally got on well with deputy managers and was not picked on as often as the others and, generally, was not given much cause to complain.

supplementary statement:

Regarding McDonald's working practices

I am currently working for University of the West of England - Bristol (UWE) as a Senior Technician in Information Technology. I would like to add to my previous statement of 25 Mar 1988, the following points :



3. A few other points:

date signed: not dated
status: Appeared in court

references: Not applicable/ available
exhibits: Not applicable/ available

transcripts of court appearances:

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