Jun 24, 2013

McDonald's and Burger King Violate Labor and Human Rights

La Jornada
By Patricia Muñoz Rios
Americas Progam Original Translation

They were the first to apply hourly wages, a UAM study reveals. They use adolescents in temporary recruitment schemes.

México, DF. Payments of 15-16 pesos per hours worked, which mean fortnightly wages of 600 pesos on average; hiring as general employees, so that in a single day preparing food and washing bathrooms or floors causes constant accidents, especially falls and fractures; an obligation to sign blank resignations, are the working conditions of young people who work at McDonald's and Burger King.

Interviews conducted to these employees in an investigation by the Metropolitan Autonomous University and the Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC), revealed that the working conditions of the young people employed  in these fast food restaurants, which have protective unions that ensure non-labor organization, are rarely checked by inspectors of the Ministry of Labor.
Both McDonald's and Burger King, according to the information collected, used the same scheme of temporary employment of adolescents and youth from 16 to 22 years and no older because they do not want workers with seniority or permanent contracts. They hire mostly students, who are trained by their peers.

In the interviews conducted by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Xochimilco, the youth explained that in both companies, after their working hours whether they have prepared food boxes or attended to customer service, are required to do the cleaning of the premises, wash bathrooms, cleaning tables, floors, windows, and kitchens.

A young woman who we call Maria- who in McDonald's had an accident in one eye- and Ernesto, who works at Burger King, said that the days can be extended over eight hours if the stores close at 10 pm.  The workers can take up to two or three hours cleaning the establishment, so that at twelve or one o'clock in the morning they have to find a way to get home and ask their parents to pick them up.

Maria recounts that the accident she suffered was because cooking oil jumped into her eye, the reason why she was rushed to a Social Security clinic.  She was incapacitated for one month before returning to work only to be immediately fired. She never received severance pay, "I made several trips, 'come tomorrow, your check is not signed, we can`t find it.` It went on like this until I decided to stop going.” Although the accident left her with the health consequences in the right eye, she knows many other colleagues who have suffered falls, fractures and poisoning with cleaning chemicals.  She says it is impossible to complain, because they make you sign blank waivers that free the company from all responsibilities.

Ernesto explains that the youth who complain about their working conditions are immediately fired and that they are paid on average of 15 or 16 pesos per hour, have one day off, and are not provide with safety equipment to perform their tasks. Both McDonald's and Burger King hire through third parties.

Carlos Garcia Villanueva, professor and researcher at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco, in his report Young and Precarious Work, exposes that these companies were the first to apply the hourly pay and low wages, a basic element for hiring employees in precarious working conditions.

In his analysis, published in Veredas: Journal of Sociological Thought, the expert details that Burger King’s hiring processes are made through the intermediation outsourced Fast Food SA de CV. These are for an indefinite period of time, without job security, conditions of multifunctionality, which the company has the prerogative to change schedules and tasks, ranging from defrosting and cooking meat for burgers, kitchen wash, disinfecting utensils, and cleaning bathrooms among other tasks.

Based on the interviews of the workers the researcher concluded that working conditions in these enterprises are marked by a high turnover situation, inadequate wages, lack of health and safety precautions, and "bad treatment", all with zero union protection.

Last week ProDESC held the Day of Global Action Against Violations of Labor Rights by McDonald's, and explained that in the U.S. shifts up to 25 hours straight were imposed on some exchange workers, with no extra pay and pay below the minimum salary in addition to high charges for lodging.

In Mexico City, McDonald's has signed collective bargaining agreements with the Progressive Just Sierra Workers of the Mexican Republic Union, controlled by Ramón Gámez, "the czar of protection contracts, who is a fugitive from justice".  He was recently given acknowledgment as the secretary general of the organization.

Translated by Yadira Diaz Ramirez
Edited by Nidia Bautista 

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