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Numerous McDonald’s Workers Say Restaurants Aren’t Following Covid-19 Protocols

Their stories illustrate how workers in precarious and low-paid jobs feel bound to work even when unsafe

A McDonald’s worker wears a mask at its Rutland restaurant
The workers reported that several restaurants were failing to observe safety policies
Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images

Numerous McDonald’s workers have testified that the fast food chain’s restaurants aren’t following coronavirus safety protocols. In a report from Sky News, employees from three cities referred to temperature checks not being carried out; the impossibility of frequent handwashing; and a lack of social distancing, with managers unwilling to enforce the policies that McDonald’s chief executive Paul Pomroy has said ensure “the wellbeing of our people and creating the right environment for them to return to work.”

Workers in Merseyside, Manchester, and Kent tied the lack of measures to their feeling bound to come to work, even in an environment that they consider to be safe. One said: “I worry about my family getting COVID and you know it creates a lot of anxiety, it makes our lives very stressful — more stressful than they need to be. We are already in a very stressful time and I think it burns people out... it burns people out emotionally.” The report comes two months after McDonald’s closed all of its restaurants for walk-in service, saying “throughout this crisis we have always prioritised the safety of our employees and customers.”

McDonald’s workers have questioned the multibillion pound burger giant’s COVID-19 policies throughout the pandemic. As its 924 U.K. restaurants geared up to reopen last summer, several workers told Eater that they were worried for their safety and unconvinced of management’s commitment to good practice. In the early stages of the pandemic, when restaurants first shut down, McDonald’s workers testified that their precarious contracts — whether on minimum wage or zero-hour terms — left them with no choice but to work, and expressed fears that the company’s reliance on franchising would make it harder to enforce rules on pay and safety. Only 18 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are company-owned.

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU,) which coordinates McStrike action in support of a £15 minimum wage, said that it is “extremely concerned about health and safety across McDonald’s restaurants.” The BFAWU added:

Workers are reporting a lack of safety measures across the country which pose a risk to the over 100,000 people who work for the burger giant as well being a potential source of community transmission.

During the pandemic, McDonald’s has paid out record amounts to shareholders, whilst receiving hundreds of millions in public subsidy all whilst workers have faced poverty wages, endemic abuse and unsafe conditions.

McDonald’s has told Sky News that it is “investigating the issues raised as a matter of urgency, and strongly encourage(s) any of our employees with concerns to raise these using the various channels we have in place.” But a common thread in the report’s testimony — and that throughout the last twelve months — is a distrust in management’s enforcement of safety and a fear that raising the issue will not be without reprisal. Per one worker in Manchester: “I think the management are working as if we are not in a pandemic right now.”