witness statement

name: Ian Whittle
section: Employment
for: The Defence
experience: McDonald's crew member, Sutton, 1983-1986


McDonald's lays great store by its strict rules relating to hygiene and food preparation. In a training film it shows a slovenly dirty store where the staff rush around because their look out has spotted an Area Manager in the area. The film is supposed to be showing staff that this is how not to operate, but is probably nearer the truth of how stores operate. He outlined problems of low pay, poor conditions, discrimination and hostility to Union activity


I worked in McDonald's in Sutton between 1983 and 1986. Initially part time, and full time for the last six months.

Full cv:
(not available for this witness)

full statement:

When interviewed for the job, I was advised that McDonald's did not recognise Trade Unions as all problems were resolved on an individual basis. Staff who deserved pay increases received them and promotion was awarded on the same basis.

Store Atmosphere

The atmosphere in the store was very different to that presented to me at my interview. Individual staff or "crew members" were encouraged to be management sneaks. Any information that Managers might find useful was rewarded in favours, promotion and pay rises. Despite the presence of Asian, Black and Oriental managers, the store was blatantly racist. Asian male staff were nearly always cleaning the toilets or on "litter patrol". The non white Managers were happy to provide a non racist veneer and seemed to feel their status elevated them above the racial inferiority they imposed on others.

The Manager openly agreed that women - the prettier the better - should operate the tills, especially on a Saturday. This would encourage male custom.

Some of the managers were extremely homphoic and would encourage like-minded staff to abuse "suspected" gay and lesbian staff.

On one occcasion I prevented the store manager, Phil, from being assaulted by a customer but managers would often allow staff to be abused and threatened rather than lose the customer.

Hygiene and Holding Times

McDonald's lays great store by its strict rules relating to hygiene and food preparation. In a training film it shows a slovenly dirty store where the staff rush around because their look out has spotted an Area Manager in the area. The film is supposed to be showing staff that this is how not to operate, but is probably nearer the truth of how stores operate.

Whenever a spot check was made by an Area Manager, we always received a "tip off" so we could go into overdrive to ensure that they found the store up to scratch.

Whilst at Sutton Store, a worker - Adam - slipped on a greasy floor and seriously burnt his arm. He was later persuaded that any compensation claim would fail, because it had been his personal responsibility to mop the floor. Even though he had been too busy to do this because he had been asked to cook.

Burgers have a "holding time" of about 8-10 minutes. To ensure this is adhered to, time cards are suppose to be put into the heated storage area. However individuals do not want a high waste record to count against them, so they either don't use the card or they use their own longer holding times. Egg McMuffins were often kept for over an hour as they sold so irregularly. In fact, McDonalds stopped selling them after the breakfast period because of this.

The pressure in busy times meant that food which had fallen on the floor or undercooked meat would be served. This was against the rules of course, but strict adherance to all rules would have made the job impossible with the inadequate staffing levels.

The company of McDonald's may well point to its rule book which forbids poor hygiene etc. But the reality in the store is very different.

When government relaxed the rules regarding minimum levels of vitamins and minerals in bread, McDonald's buns changed almost the same week. The new buns were more artificial and sponge like. One member of staff put a press cutting on the staff notice board about the governments new rules. The Manager of the store - Sue - ripped the cutting down and tried to find out who had placed it there. She was obviously very angry.

McDonald's used to claim that it cleared all litter regardless of origins from the street surrounding the store. The reality was that all litter was cleared from the front of the store and only litter that originated from McDonald's from other areas.

The severity of the Management team would constantly change and a relaxed regime would be followed by a strict one. This would enable managers to discipline or sack staff who were breaking minor rules which had not previously been enforced.

If a member of staff was sick, the staff schedule was often re-written so that they were not "meant" to be there on the relevant days and were therefore not entitled to sick pay.

In the strict regimes staff felt very vulnerable about their jobs, seeing colleagues being sacked for minor offenses.

The staffing levels were always kept to the absolute minimum to keep costs down. Managers would compete to see who could run the lowest staffed shift and make the most money for the company.

Low Pay and Bad Working Conditions

Whilst at Sutton, a number of other staff told me that all the staff at Croydon were sacked because they tried to unionise. A few of the delivery drivers told me that they had "sold" their union rights away, but now regretted this as their conditions had worsened considerably.

A number of us felt that the low pay and bad working conditions were intolerable and that we should join a trade uion. This was discussed on the quiet, as the Company's hostile attitude to unions was well known. Eventually about 15 people were determined to join with the majority of other staff waiting for us to set something up. There were about five of us who were going to co-ordinate everything. However, within two weeks of a decision being taken to proceed I was the only one of this group remaining in employment, the other had been sacked for trivial reasons. Although no one ever actually confirmed the union link, everyone believed it to be the case.

During this period staff were stopped from congregating and discussing anything to do with the job. Managers became paranoid about discussions and would intervene to stop them.

"Rap sessions" were used to reinforce the idea that any grievance could be voiced, but these meetings were very intimidating and were used to pick on the most outspoken staff members and so warn others that they would be treated accordingly if they tried to be critical.

Some staff became so agitated that they considered sabotaging the store to "strike back", but were persuaded by the Pro-union group, that this was not the way to protest.

I confirm this is an accurate statement of some of my experiences whilst working at McDonald's and would be prepared to testify to this in court.

supplementary statement:

When I worked at McDonald's I used to visit other stores regularly to buy food. I always checked the time cards recording the holding times for available food items to ensure the food was fresh. I often noticed that items were being held past their holding time (time cards could be replaced to achieve this) and so I didn't buy that item. I knew from experience that this practice had the effect of reducing wastage counts/ costs. (I also noticed this practice when I visited the Nottingham store recently).

After leaving McDonald's employ I had gastric problems. I had been used to eating primarily McDonald's free food for the 6 months I was full time. We would eat as much as we could - for me it was compensation for low pay, and to save money. However, when I left I tried to eat healthier food and my stomach/ body wasn't use to it (to fibre). I got the runs. I also felt a real physical craving to continue with McDonald's food, but I've not eaten it since.

As recorded by Dave Morris.

date signed: 28th October 1995
status: Appeared in court
references: Not applicable/available

exhibits: Not applicable/available

transcripts of court appearances:

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