MORE THAN P1,000 every month are “counted out” – called “wage theft” – from the already low salary of every McDonald’s crew in Metro Manila through an unwritten but rampant practice in the entire fast-food industry, where workers provide additional but unpaid work in their workplaces for a certain period of time every day.
Based on a series of surveys starting in 2013 that focused on the working conditions in key McDonald’s branches in the National Capital Region (NCR), this and other findings on the plight of the mostly young fast food workers were highlighted by the youth group APL-Youth-SENTRO in today’s celebrations of the International Youth Day (IYD).
This paper – part of the APL-Youth-SENTRO’s Respect Fast Food Workers’ Rights campaign – was also discussed in four pre-IYD forums attended by school- and community-based youth organizations in the NCR last month and early this month, and was presented in the International Fast Food Workers’ Conference on June 6-8 in Detroit, Michigan.
Called “turnover work” in McDonald’s restaurants, “charity work” in Jollibee outlets and nameless in other fast-food joints, this “cost-saving” and profit-increasing scheme is defined as an extra work “a fast food crew needs to accomplish after her/his normal shift.”
This “free work,” which could also occur before the start of the employees’ official work schedule, includes washing the dishes or wiping the eating and cooking utensils for those assigned in the kitchen; accounting of the day’s sales for cashiers; cleaning the rest rooms and mopping the floors; collecting and disposing the trash.
Surveyed were McDonald’s crews in branches inside and outside shopping malls, most of them were working in 24-hour outlets and most were directly operated by the Golden Arches Development Corp. (GADC), the Philippine franchisee of the US-based McDonald’s, which is in turn the world’s largest fast-food chain.
Among the main results are:
• The average daily turnover work is 41.46 minutes.
• Length of turnover work does not vary (statistically) whether or not a branch is in a mall, if it operates 24 hours a day or not, or if it is run by GADC or by an independent franchisee. This implies that turnover work is indeed a widespread practice.
• Based on an average of a 6-hour workday (McDonald’s is also notorious for having no fixed shift, especially the number of working hours in a day), turnover work constitutes 10.33 percent of the work of the crews.
• Based on the P466 minimum wage in NCR (during the survey), the average daily turnover work – or “foregone wage” – amounted to P40.25 or P1,006.23 per month or P12,074.74 per year. Thus, a branch employing 60 workers could realize a “savings” of P724,484.38 every year.
• The said figures will further increase if the current P481 daily minimum wage in the NCR is used. Thus, the wage lost per worker will be: P41.55 per day; P1,246.39 per month; and P14,956.70 per year. Likewise, the annual “savings” (or additional profits) per branch with 60 crews will reach to P897,401.70.
Taking cue from the survey result, the APL-Youth-SENTRO dubbed its street play held to celebrate today’s 15th IYD as “Quarenta y Uno” in reference to the more than 41 minutes of turnover work of each fast-food worker, majority of whom are in their teens or are young adults.
This year’s IYD will focus on the issue of wage theft – perpetrated by a company through the work rendered for free for the fast-food joints by their workers – in the highly profitable fast-food industry.
McDonald’s mascot, Ronald McDonald’s, will be symbolically tried in the street play for the “crimes” of wage theft, low wages and scarce benefits, contractualization and union-busting, the APL-Youth-SENTRO, said. A concert in the evening will follow at the Marikina Freedom Park, where guest singers, bands and other artists will perform to hundreds of youth activists.
APL-Youth-SENTRO affiliates in the provinces will also stage pickets, rallies and street plays, including those in Davao, General Santos and Batangas.
McDonald’s pioneered the widespread use and abuse of contractual labor in the multibillion-dollar global fast food industry – setting off today’s familiar hiring of mostly youthful workers with low wages, scarce benefits and no security of tenure, or derisively called “McJobs.” It also became infamous for its almost fanatical resistance to trade unions.
McDonald’s notorious anti-worker and anti-union practices are widely imitated in the fast food industry, especially by other fast food transnational corporations like Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, KFC and many others, which all operate also in the Philippines.
The said practices are likewise followed by the local fast food firms, including the industry leader Jollibee, which is infamous too for its low pays and routine use of “endo” or “end-of-contract” workers with short-term and precarious work arrangements and also called “5-5-5” scheme where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from becoming permanent or regular workers.