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May 16, 2014 / politicsbitesize


FastFoodOn Thursday, May 15th, fast food workers from across the globe staged a strike against unfair wages and working conditions. The protest was mobilised using the hashtag #fastfoodglobal and kicked off in Auckland, New Zealand at 12:30am GMT.  Throughout the day protests took place in 150 US cities and 32 other countries, including Germany, Belgium, Japan, Brazil, Italy and the UK.

The campaign was called by the IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association) after a worldwide conference of fast food workers held in New York last week.  Ron Oswald, the organisation’s general secretary, opened the conference in New York by declaring that the protests were, ‘just the beginning of an unprecedented international fast-food worker movement – and this highly profitable industry better take note.’

The IUF has 396 affiliated organisations in 126 countries, representing a combined membership of 12 million workers, so the groundswell behind this campaign is huge.  However, the movement came from humble beginnings in New York when in 2012 local workers launched their first protests for fairer wages and better working conditions.

The deep undercurrents of unrest at the worldwide casualisation of labour inherent in the fast-food industry have sparked the imagination of thousands of workers. Since 2012, protests have ignited across the US with workers joining forces to stand up against poverty wages and to demand the living wage of $15 dollars (US) per hour.

In Britain, that translated into a trend toward zero hours contracts by the food and service industry.  Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed an increase in the use of these contracts.  The number of UK jobs offered on zero hours contracts is 1.4m, which is a far higher number than expected by the government. Under this system workers have no guaranteed hours, but can be called to work at a moment’s notice.  This precarious way of working has been described as exploitative and parallels the plight of some American workers who earn a minimum tipped wage of $2.13 per hour.

The #fastfoodglobal campaign is highlighting the exploitation and low pay of workers employed by companies such as McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and Olive Garden.  It is making the general public aware of the poor conditions experienced by people in this industry and demands better pay for all.  Workers of the world are consolidating their struggle with this forceful call for dignified working conditions.


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