My name is Helen Sesay, I’m from Brixton and I used to work at McDonald’s. I want to speak out in support of the McStrike because I know many of my former workmates worry about speaking out alone.
It’s no secret that McDonald’s have been named and shamed for taking advantage of zero hour contracts. For me, not having any certainty in my working hours was hard. One particular time, McDonald’s didn’t give me any hours. I was shocked. I had to go back to my manager and ask for those hours. Sometimes my hours were even cut back without any notice.
For my old colleagues, this uncertainty caused huge problems for them in their lives. Not knowing when they would next work meant they found it difficult to save, pay rent, and even feel confident that they could support their families. Management and understaffing issues have been unbearable too. Most of the workers I know complain that the managers don’t give them the respect that they deserve. They feel as if they are talked down to and looked down upon because of their position. It’s embarrassing, demeaning and confidence destroying. They treat you as if you are smaller than them. As if you’re a second class citizen. No one should have to work in that environment.
Staffing is really bad sometimes, too. Usually during the week, they won’t have enough staff, and the staff that they do have, would have to stay back, have really late breaks, or in some cases, work with no breaks at all. It just meant that the people working there, and covering the lack of staff, were being punished for their hard work. Sometimes I would spend over an hour after my shift working, because of the lack of staff. One particular time, I stayed two hours after my shift because we were that understaffed and it was really busy. At the time I didn’t complain. But this goes unrecognised. No one thinks about the toll it takes on you and not being able to spend time with your family and friends because of it.
Many people don’t see all the work that we put in. It is a very demanding job, and sometimes you feel as if the pay isn’t worth the hours you put in. Earning £10 per hour, like the McStrike has been calling for, would make a huge difference to all our lives. It would at least make it feel like we are being rewarded for our efforts.
A lot of people are struggling like this at McDonald’s, going through what I’ve been through and more, but are scared to speak out. I don’t want to see the people that I spent a year working with continue to struggle. That’s why I feel I have to speak out. I can’t sit in silence any longer, whilst my colleagues - my friends – continue to be overlooked, overworked and sadly mistreated by multinational corporations.
Everyday, McDonald’s is making profit. And I think it’s important that they look after their workers. Don’t they? That’s why the McStrike is so important for the workers. But it’s not just McDonald’s but other workers who are struggling and need support, too, including Wetherspoon’s and TGI Friday’s. Having a Union that is recognised would definitely be a huge leap in the right direction. It would mean that workers have the support that they need. It will feel like we have a voice. It’ll feel like we have each other – ready to fight for our rights.
McDonald’s could be different if they work on the issues I’ve talked about –offering guaranteed hours, working with the Union, making sure its staff are treated respectfully, leave on time, and get guaranteed breaks. And importantly, ending the days of poverty pay. It’s not much to ask. It would have a huge impact on our lives, and the families that many of us need to support. But this ‘dream’ outcome seems exactly that right now, and that’s exactly why things need to change. That’s why I’ll be standing in solidarity - hand in hand - with all those other hospitality workers, fighting for these basic rights. On 4 October, we’ll make sure our voices are heard.