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article imageLow paid workers take strike action for better contracts

By Tim Sandle     Oct 5, 2018 in Business
Workers in low paid jobs working for large corporations and many from the gig economy took part in a nationwide and coordinated strike in the U.K.. This included people who work at McDonald's and Uber.
Pay rates across the U.K. very considerably and with this come variances in job security, labor power, and good employment contracts. There are also considerable geographical differences. For instance, in London about 6 percent of employees earn the minimum wage, compared with Northern Ireland where around 14 percent of workers earn this amount (based on the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings survey). The hospitality sector employs around 4.5 million people, which equates ten per cent of the U.K.’s working population.
For some low pay and poor employment conditions was sufficiently long-lasting for action to be taken. On Thursday October 4, 2018 the first nationwide strike of low paid and zero hour contract workers (essentially workers drawn from the 'gig economy') took place in the U.K.. Many of the striking workers took part in protests in London. Here representatives from McDonald's, pub chain Westherspoons and Uber assembled in Leicester Square for a day of action. Demonstrations occurred across eight British cities. The claims made by the workers included demands for better pay, fairer contracts and union recognition.
The strike and protest received backing from The Frances O’Grady, who is the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (the governing body of most trade unions). Here O'Grady said: '"These are often young workers who increasingly feel they have nothing to lose. They are on low pay, often without training and often on zero-hour contracts". Support was also offered by shadow chancellor, John McDonnell of the opposition Labour Party.
However, the strikes and actions were opposed by most of the employers, most notably McDonald’s. The U.S.-owned purveyor of burgers took issue with the widespread naming of the strike action on social media as “McStrike”, according to The Guardian. The firm also noted that its restaurants remained open despite “frustrating attempts by protesters at a handful of locations to impact our customers, and our restaurant teams”.
This was view countered by Striking McDonald’s worker Lauren McCourt who stated the industrial action could transform the sector for the better. “The days of poverty pay, insecure contracts and lack of respect for workers are numbered. A living wage of £10 an hour for all ages, security of hours, and our right to a union are the basic rights we are fighting for,” she explained.
Strikes by other low paid workers took place in Chile, Colombia, the U.S., Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Philippines and Japan, on the same day.
More about Low pay, Minimum wage, gig economy, Unions
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