witness statement

name: Philip Pearson
section: Employment
for: The Defence
experience: Expert on industrial relations, pay and employment law


The witness provides an in-depth and fascinating study of McDonalds employment regime, compiled as part of the witnesses role in safegaurding and assessing employment practices in this sector.

However, the witness, in the course of the study, came up against standard stonewalling tactics."It is only possible to gain a comprehensive picture of working conditions through direct contact with employees. However, I was not granted permission to discuss with crew some of the issues which are in contention...


I worked for the Transport and General Workers Union as a full-time official from April 1980 to November 1992, working out of the union's central London office, at North Gower Street, prior to taking up this appointment, I was employed as a fieldworker with the Migrant Services Unit

Full cv: (not available for this witness)

full statement:


Site visits

David McGee

Union rights and McDonald's

Health and safety at work

Controlling the cost of labour

supplemetary statement:

The witness provided the following details

  1. Between April 1980 and November 1991 I was employed as a full time officer with the Transport and General Workers Union, working from the local office in North Gower street, central London. My main responsibilities included recruiting and servicing employees in the hotel and catering industry including the fast-food sector. On various occasions throughout my period of office I was involved in recruitment activities in McDonalds. This inludes a series of contacts with various outlets in 1987-88.

  2. I made the following statement on 3Oth September 1988 whilst employed by the TGWU: "McDonalds is a difficult firm to deal with from a trade union point of view. I have been refused access to the staff on the premises of at least two outlets (Warren Street and Narrow Way, Hackney) despite speaking to local managers, even though this was to meet staff in their break times. In at least one case a lay union organiser found that he had trade union material stolen from his locker and was told by management that they can do what they like. They admitted to the employee that they did steal the material. I was dismayed by this action by management because I was assured by the lay member that he had openly given the material to staff whilst they were off duty and I was asured that the initial response from staff was very enthusiastic.

  3. Staff in other units have told me that they were afraid to join a union because they were told not to or because they feared the sack if they did so or because they were told by management that there was no union in McDonalds. I believe that they took this to mean that they were not allowed to join a union and that management was happy to leave them with this impression."

    The other units referred to (in para 3) above were in Oueensway and Holloway Road, London.

  4. I have undertaken research on the following areas:

  5. In I 986 I published "Twilight Robbery: Trade unions and low paid workers" (Pluto Press), which showed that the "main concentrations of low paid workers are in the service industries - shops, hotel and catering, distribution,..even in the same low paid jobs, such as bar work or clearilng, women's hourly rates of pay are less than mens. On average, women's full time hourly rates are about 74% of mens". This combination of low and unequal pay is a constant problem among low paid, especially female, employees in the catering sector. The book argued that the removal of the safety net of wages council minimum wage rates would lead to a collapse in pay rates in many low paid sectors.Until the passing of the 1993 Trade Union reform and Employment Rights Act, wages councils used to cover fast food outlets.

  6. I contributed to the London Food Commission's report, "Fast Food Facts" (Dr. T. Lobstein, 1988). which described pay and conditions in the fast food sector. It stated that, "Part-time working is common in fast food stores and staff turnover is high. In one study, it was found that a third of those that left fast food employment had been sacked. Yet the law does not permit anyone with less than two years continuous service to claim for unfair dismissal (unless it is for racial or sexual discrimination). ...effectively, very few people in fast food service ever earn this basic employment right."

    These comments reflect my own experience in the field as a full time union officer.

  7. Fast Food Facts also draws upon a unique study of employment in the fast food sector by Dr Yiannis Gabriel ("Working Lives in Catering", 1988). I reviewed this latter book in New Statesman, highlighting such issues as high staff turnover and the intensive work regime. Gabriel showed that only 10% of the fast food staff he interviewed had worked in the same place for for as long as two years. They had little hope of promotion and believed that fast food offered, to quote, "crap jobs", a conclusion that must be of concern at some level, given the high proportion of young people who find their first job in the catering sector. Gabriel found that 70% of the fast food workers he interviewed in a major chain agreed that they needed union protection and held over pay and conditions. They felt that the union could give a voice where they had none at present

  8. Lobstein noted that, "Although trade unions have failed to gain a foothold in the UK McDonalds outlets, they have succeeded in other countries, particularly where basic employment protection rights for individual workers are relatively strong." He cites instances in Sweden Dublin and Mexico to make the point which in general, in my view, is highly relevant as background to my own union recruitment experience in this sector.

  9. Low pay persists in catering. The Council of Europe's definition of "low pay" is the "decency threshold", set at less than 68% of average earnings in any affiliated country. On this basis, according to the 1992 New earnings survey, low pay is defined as 207.13 a week or 5.52 an hour. The New Earnings Survey does not provide specific data on pay for fast food workers. But average earnings for all workers covered by wages councils, including those in fast food, were 174.50, with 72.2% earning less than 200 per week and as many as one in 10 workers earning below l05.60 a week. The same survey shows that waiting staff earn on average 151.60 a week, with nearly 85% on less than 200 a week.

    Such factors as these set the background for the interest in union membership reported by Gabriel and others, in line with my own experience in the field.

    date signed: March 1, 1995
    status: Appeared in court
    references: Not applicable/ available

    exhibits: Not applicable/ available

    transcripts of court appearances:

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