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McDonald’s franchisee pays $275,000 for fines and costs for unlawful union busting

The McDonald’s franchisee who ran McDonald’s Murray Bridge has paid $275,000 for fines and legal costs, and admitted appalling breaches of workers’ rights, to settle a Federal Court case brought by the SDA.

The employer admitted that:

“Over…5 years…senior managers…engaged in an unlawful campaign to de-unionise the workforce, including unlawfully inducing members to resign from the SDA and unlawfully persuading potential members not to join the SDA.”

“The Former McDonald’s Franchisee unlawfully instructed or encouraged managers to discourage employees from joining the SDA and from staying SDA members…”

“…managers pressured employees to give up their permanent part time employment and become casual, by telling them their hours would be cut if they did not give up their permanent employment and become casual…”

“…senior managers falsely and unlawfully told…employees that they could not be promoted to be a manager if they were an SDA member….Telling employees that they had to or should give up their union membership if they wanted to be a manager is unlawful adverse action that breaches the Fair Work Act 2009.”

McDonald’s Murray Bridge workers were threatened with demotion and cuts to hours if they remained SDA members, with lists of union members posted on a noticeboard.

The SDA believes this is a world first: a McDonald’s store confessing to an unlawful campaign to de-unionise the workforce.

Hundreds of McDonald’s workers across Australia have reported near-identical union busting attempts at McDonald’s stores to the SDA.

All workers have the right to join their union. Working with brave workers like those from Murray Bridge McDonald’s, the SDA will keep stamping out unlawful anti-union behavior across the retail, fast food and warehousing industries.

This case shows that the Fair Work Act must be strengthened to protect workers against abuse of their basic, fundamental workplace rights including the right to the protection by their Union.

The SDA is investigating further legal action against other McDonald’s stores that have engaged in similar unlawful conduct.

This is the most significant Australian case holding an employer to account for attempted Union busting since the waterfront dispute in the late 1990’s.

After the case was launched, the franchisee stopped operating McDonald’s stores.

Most of the $275,000 settlement will be paid to workers who were subjected to unlawful attacks on their workplace rights at McDonald’s.

Quotes attributable to SDA SA Secretary Josh Peak:

“This landmark settlement sees this McDonald’s franchisee pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for their illegal, anti-union conduct and for pressuring workers to give up their permanent employment and go casual.”

“McDonald’s Murray Bridge workers were bullied, intimidated and threatened because they stood up for themselves and their co-workers.”

“It’s a disgrace that McDonald’s – one of the biggest and richest global corporations – has stores where management actively campaigns to deny workers the basic, democratic right to the protection of Union membership.

“This attack on vulnerable, young workers, cannot be tolerated.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’ve heard from thousands of McDonald’s workers and they tell us unlawful union busting activity is going on at McDonald’s stores across Australia. Many don’t want to be named for fear of losing their jobs or having shifts cut.”

“In December, McDonald’s Australia Limited told the Australian Senate:

We strive to ensure that there is no unlawful conduct in our employment practices, in our workplaces or in connection with work…

With admissions of a 5 year unlawful campaign by senior managers trying to de-unionise the workforce at a McDonald’s restaurant, how can anyone take McDonald’s claims seriously?

McDonald’s Australia also told the Australian Senate:

… the majority of employees don’t choose to convert to part-time or full-time employment…. If the fast food award had more flexibility, we would have more part-timers. I know that for a fact because our number of part-timers reduced when we came off the enterprise agreement, which did have more flexibility than the fast food award. So in my mind, based on these casual conversion numbers, it’s actually our employees not wanting to convert to permanent part-time or full-time employment

With admissions that …managers pressured employees to give up their permanent part time employment and become casual, by telling them their hours would be cut if they did not give up their permanent employment and become casual…, McDonald’s claims just can’t be accepted. Managers applied that pressure to go casual when the fast food award came in at McDonald’s.

“We won’t stop until McDonald’s workers across Australia are treated fairly by this global behemoth.”

“Employers who break the rules in fast food, retail and warehousing need to think carefully, do I want to answer for this in Court and pay fines? Just do the right thing – support your employees’ workplace rights. Make sure your managers know that workers rights must be respected. Stop breaking the law.”

“McDonald’s Australia knows about this case – but it appears that McDonald’s Australia hasn’t done anything to stop breaches of workplace laws like this in its Australian stores – if McDonald’s systems made sure workers’ rights were respected, this would never have happened.

“McDonald’s employs thousands of school aged Australians, often their first job – they and their families deserve better.”

“McDonald’s must urgently start a root and branch review of all of its Australian stores and make sure workplace rights are respected. More of the same is not an option.”

“Despite the 5 year campaign attempting to de-unionise the workforce, the SDA stands strong in protecting its members.”

Quotes attributable to former McDonald’s worker Heather Hammond:

“All through my employment at McDonald’s Murray Bridge, I witnessed senior management’s ruthless campaign to keep workers out of the Union and to punish workers who joined the Union.”

“I witnessed a McDonald’s manager tell a worker that if she did not resign her SDA membership, she would be demoted.”

“I was pressured into resigning my union membership – they made me frightened I would lose my position as a supervisor.”

“Then, after I gave in to the pressure to give up my SDA membership, my hours were slashed because I raised a workplace safety concern.”

Quotes attributable to former McDonald’s worker Iesha Taurima:

“When I became a manager, managers made it very clear the business owner didn’t like workers being in the union.

“A few months after I became a manager I was approached again – they said I was the only manager who’s in the union. Senior management pressured me to resign my union membership, but I managed to remain a member with the support of my mum.”.

“Senior management at McDonald’s Murray Bridge bullied me the whole time I worked there, including for being a union member”.

“I felt pressured into cancelling my SDA membership every step of my employment, which would have left me without protection in the workplace – and I really needed that protection.”

McDonald’s says on its website:

Our people are our greatest asset ….We create opportunities for all employees to work flexibly in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling for them, whilst recognising and valuing our people in an enjoyable, energising environment.

That’s the total opposite of what I experienced when I worked at McDonald’s Murray Bridge.

I definitely was not “loving it”.

All McDonald’s workers – and their parents – need to be careful that they don’t get treated like I was.”

Media Contact: Jim Middleton – 0418 627 066