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250,000 McDonald’s workers seek $250 million in backpay

·2-min read
he McDonald's logo is seen above a restaurant on July 27, 2022. Source: Getty Images
Compensation is being sought for over 250,000 current and former McDonald’s workers across Australia. Source: Getty Images

McDonald’s is facing fresh claims of worker exploitation, with compensation being sought for more than 250,000 current and former employees who were allegedly robbed of rest breaks.

The latest round of legal action from the SDA union is one of the biggest in Australia’s history and follows an almost 2 year investigation into exploitation and Award contraventions across the fast food chain.

The mega Federal Court claim against the fast good giant involves 323 operators across Australia who are accused of denying rest breaks at nearly 1,000 stores.

It’s being alleged that workers were not informed of their entitlements, and in some cases told their breaks could be exchanged for free soft drinks or going to the bathroom.

Under the Fast Food Award, all McDonald’s workers were entitled to an uninterrupted 10-minute break when working four or more hours.

SDA Secretary Gerard Dwyer accused the mega-chain of picking and choosing which laws to follow.

“Across their restaurants, McDonald’s demands consistency. They make sure each restaurant can put two beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. It’s simply not believable that these breaks weren’t denied on purpose,” he said.

“As one of the largest employers of young people in Australia, McDonald’s shouldn’t have to be dragged through the Federal Court for workers to receive their most basic entitlements.”

The SDA is seeking thousands of dollars in compensation for workers who did not receive their legal break entitlements, adding up to an estimated $250 million plus penalties.

The union has also requested the Court to award penalties against some 400 site operators involved.

Maccas fights back

In a statement to Yahoo Finance, a spokesperson for McDonald’s Australia slammed the claims as "disappointing" said the company "denies it has ever engaged in any practice amounting to wage theft".

"McDonald's restaurants have always complied with applicable instruments, provided rest breaks to employees and were consistent with historic working arrangements," the statement read.

"Those arrangements have been known to the SDA for many years. The manner of taking breaks has not been challenged or raised by the SDA as a matter of concern throughout successive enterprise bargaining processes for new industrial agreements.

"Seen in this context, the current claims are both surprising and disappointing.

"We are very mindful of our obligations under applicable employment laws, including the former enterprise agreement and the Fast Food Industry Award, and continue to work closely with our licensees and restaurants to ensure employees receive all correct workplace entitlements and pay.

"We value our employees highly and the great contribution they make to the success of the business.

"Accordingly, McDonald's Australia intends to fully defend the claim."

The SDA has another 15 existing Federal Court claims against McDonald’s Australia and 14 franchisees.

“These Federal Court Claims are not just about compensation and penalising McDonald’s, it’s about sending a clear message that this systematic exploitation of young workers will not be tolerated,” Dwyer said.

“We won’t stop calling out these exploitative behaviours until McDonald’s cleans up their act and compensates workers.”

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