Striking workers from Wetherspoon’s, TGI Fridays, McDonald’s and UberEats held a rally in London’s Leicester Square on Thursday in a bid to secure better pay and workers’ rights.
Groups of staff from the companies walked out on Thursday as part of industrial action coordinated with the help of the Baker’s Union.
Those employed by the fast food outlets are calling for a wage increase to £10 per hour and the abolishment of youth rates, while the Uber Eats drivers are demanding a minimum pay rate of £5 per food drop-off and £1 per mile travelled.
For Wetherspoon’s, today the first time in the company’s history that workers have gone on strike and employees from two Brighton branches began the action by walking out of their branches at just gone midnight.
Around 30 of them then travelled to London for the main rally today, before an evening demonstration back in the seaside town.
Chris Heppell, one of the Wetherspoon’s workers who travelled up, told HuffPost UK: “Today is about us showing every Wetherspoon’s and McDonald’s worker, every hospitality worker, in the country that we can come together to change things. We are not going away.
“When we come together we can potentially transform this sector.”
In a statement issued ahead of the action, Wetherspoon’s boss Tim Martin said: “It is understandable that there is pressure on pay with low unemployment and a housing shortage.
“However, bonuses, free shares and other benefits should be taken into account in assessing pay.”
In response to this, bar worker Elsie Bradley Middle told HuffPost: “Shares and bonuses can be a perk for some workers but shares and bonuses don’t pay your rent. They don’t buy you food every week.”
The TGI Fridays staff involved decided to take action when it was announced that tips received by card would be reallocated, with 40% of them going to back of house staff “in lieu of a pay rise that they had been asking for, for months”.
“It’s a weekly struggle to make ends meet,” says Chris Sullivan, who works in the Covent Garden branch. “To rely on the generosity of the general public to pay your rent is just not on.”
He explained that in the years he has worked for the company “certain things have ebbed away”.
“We used to get time and a half, shift meals – which some stores have had taken away - [and] more people on shift, a lot more assistance,” Sullivan adds. “Now two people are doing four people’s jobs and it’s becoming harder and harder.
“This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“We love working for TGIs or we would have left,” added Claire Trevor. “We’d rather stay and make it a better working environment for everybody.”
A handful of McDonald’s workers were also present, including Annalise Peters, who travelled to London from Cambridge for the demonstration, which gave her the chance to meet fellow strikers from other companies.
“It’s kind of overwhelming at the moment,” she said. “The fact other people are going for exactly the same things as us and they’re also willing to stand up for what they think is proper treatment.
“It’s really inspirational as well what they’re all doing, walking out of their stores and standing up to the bosses.”
Prior to the main event, workers from the Brixton branch of McDonald’s held a small rally in the nearby Windrush Square on Thursday morning.
They were joined by their local MP Helen Hayes, who shared a photograph of the protest on Twitter:
However, a source told HuffPost some of those in attendance walked off the picket line to buy food before McDonald’s stop serving breakfast.
And McDonald’s itself has hit back at the rally, with a spokesperson saying the firm has “no record” of any staff being on strike on Thursday.
One worker hit back at this, by claiming that “when they know there’s a strike coming, they will intentionally not put people [striking] on for the day”.
“They guess who is sympathetic with union activity and don’t book them on the day,” the Brixton worker said. “It’s quite cheeky on their part. It’s just not true for them to say, ‘oh there’s only two people on strike’.”
Fast food workers in the US will be going on strike between 2 and 4 October. This action will be centered in cities in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, California and Connecticut.