‘McJob’ is a convenient term. Its meaning – ‘a low-paid job with few prospects’ – is so much more digestible when packaged in the language of fast food.
But when you use it, spare a thought for McDonald’s itself. In one sense it wouldn't matter what the company did to make jobs meaningful, well-paid and with opportunities for progression. Sadly, actions don’t always speak louder than soundbites.
Today, a small group of McDonald’s employees (technically only three employees who were actually scheduled to work, according to the company) has gone on strike over pay and zero-hours or flexible contracts. Clearly they don’t think the company’s actions have been enough.
Several news outlets quoted one McDonald’s worker in Crayfield, Lewis Baker, as saying ‘every message of support builds our confidence as we stand up to this bullying company and demand a fair wage and respect on the job.’
Yet is the media coverage proportional? Unsurprisingly, McDonald’s UK CEO Paul Pomroy doesn’t think so. He came to MT to give his side of the story.
It is my responsibility to ensure that people and stakeholders are given access to the facts about McDonald’s, particularly about our great people and the investments we make in them. Time and again I hear people talk about our supposedly ‘dead-end jobs’ and I want to take the opportunity to set the record straight; that’s just not the case, and it’s not what I see when I’m in restaurants.
I’m incredibly proud of our people as they’re at the heart of all that we do. There is ongoing progression and development for those who want it - a third of my executive team and half of our franchisees started in restaurants – and we invest over £40 million in training and development each year. In fact, many retailers want to hire our people, and I see that as a real accolade, and testament to the skills working at McDonald’s provides.
Our jobs are designed for people of all ages and life stages, from those wanting a career to students, parents and even grandparents. And at a time when many businesses are cutting back, we are continuing to invest and create new opportunities. The UK business has seen an incredible 12 years of consecutive growth; in the last 18 months we have created over 5000 jobs, and over the next six months we will need another 1,000 restaurant managers – many of whom will progress from within our business.
All our people are now guaranteed the option of a fixed or a flexible contract – I made that promise in April 2017, and it’s a promise we have fulfilled. Interestingly we’ve found that 80% of our people want to stay on their flexible contracts as it works for them – but giving them that choice was absolutely the right thing for us to do.
That’s because we always have – and always will – use flexible contracts responsibly. We set our shifts in advance, and our people can always ask for more, or swap with a friend if their plans change at the last minute. Flexible contracts aren’t for everyone though. We listened to our people and heard that some did want the security that a fixed hour contract would give them, to help secure financial products like mortgages or phone contracts.
Whatever type of contract our people opt for, they get the same great benefits, from a meal allowance and a range of exclusive discounts to private healthcare after two years of service. Over the last three years we have increased wages for our hourly paid restaurant employees by 25% and we gave our people a pay rise, as we do each January. It was reported that we did this in response to last year’s action – that simply isn’t the case; we review our pay regularly and are committed to doing the right thing by our people.
Today we saw three people in five of our restaurants take industrial action. While I respect their right to protest, I am of course disappointed by this decision. In the UK, we employ over 120,000 people across our 1,270 restaurants, and as the Chief Executive, I am reassured to see that those who voted for industrial action are an extremely small proportion of our workforce, and that it’s fewer than those who took action last year.
Some of our people have shared their experiences on what it’s like for them working in our restaurants, and aired their frustrations. I do not recognise these examples, and while I know that we don’t always get it right, I also know that these experiences are the exception rather than the rule. We operate an open-door policy, and would always encourage any of our people with any concerns to talk to us directly.
We are proud to employ great people who are passionate about their jobs. We do the best by our people; not every shift will be a great shift, but we listen and learn. From kitchen to front of house, our people make McDonald’s.
Paul Pomroy is CEO of McDonald's UK.