McDonald’s CEO gets schooled by MP on the role of trade unions

“You’re giving me gobbledygook”

Andy McDonald MP has been praised for schooling a CEO on the role of trade unions, as the restaurant chain McDonald’s came under scrutiny in Parliament on Tuesday over allegations of toxic workplace culture.

The CEO of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, Alistair Macrow, was grilled over claims of sexual harassment in McDonald’s restaurants which were reporting in July. Alistair Macrow apologised ‘unreservedly’ to anyone who had suffered abuse and harassment at the company. But when it came to talking about trade unions, the CEO’s ‘gobbledygook’ response did not go down well.

The former Labour MP turned independent, Andy McDonald, laid into the company’s stance on trade unions during a line of questioning at the Business and Trade Committee.

McDonald started: “The disregard that McDonald’s has for trade unions is quite utterly scandalous.”

He asked: “Are you going to change your ways and have a much more proactive and sensible and modern approach to working with trade unions, who are there to do what you are not doing, which is to protect your employees?”

The CEO replied: “Making sure we protect our employees and spending time talking to various people who have allowed us to get the best understanding of the challenges and how to help our particular profile of customers.”

However he was cut short by McDonald who said “you’re not getting away with that, will you recognise trade unions?”

To which Macrow attempted to argue that, as the company’s staff base was made up of predominantly young people, who make up a lower percentage of trade union members, there was no point in them joining a trade union.

“It’s not a way of engagement that works for the profile of our customers. For me, it’s important to work with people who understand the customers we have in our restaurants.”

But McDonald was not having any of it, replying, “you’re giving me gobbledygook.”

“Can’t you see that they (trade unions) are absolutely pivotal to making sure that your staff that you say you care so much about are properly protected?”

Macrow replied: “It’s really important to understand who works at our restaurants..”

To which McDonald chimed in: “People! Young people. Vulnerable people.”

“Very young people,” Macrow continued. “Only 4% of all trade union members in this country are under the age of 25. The trade unions aren’t the best people to help me understand our particular employee.”

“That’s turning logic on its head,” responded McDonald. “To say we’ve got a low level of penetration of trade union membership means it isn’t relevant and effective. Isn’t the answer more?”

The chair of the meeting ended the discussion by clarifying some points: “The point is, it’s not about helping you understand the employees, Mr Macrow, it’s about making sure that your workers are safe at work.”

(Image credit: Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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