STEVE SWEENEY listens to the voices on the picket line in Cambridge this morning
McDONALD’S Cambridge branch was unusually quiet yesterday, even for six in the morning.
But the silence was shattered by a group of striking McDonald’s workers walking along the city’s Newmarket Road chanting: “I believe we can win.”
These were the history makers. Cambridge was one of the two McDonald’s branches hit with strike action for the first time ever in Britain.
Leading the chants was food workers’ union BFAWU member Tom Holliday (pictured) who told the Star that McDonald’s workers faced appalling treatment including bullying, intimidation and even sexual harassment.
The strike was not something that just happened overnight, he told me, but was the culmination of two years of organising against the poverty pay and zero-hours contracts that blight the fast food industry.
Tom explained: “We’re on strike for £10 an hour and union recognition and the reason we’re doing this is because living on poverty wages means it’s impossible to do the basics in life such as feed yourself and find a house to live in.”
His own personal circumstances give an insight into the impact of low pay. He is a father whose son lives in London — almost 60 miles from Cambridge.
The weekend return train fare can be as much as £25 and his £7.55 hourly rate means he has to often sacrifice some of the necessities such as food.
“It’s not easy to afford the train fare to go and see him on a regular basis. Sometimes I have to choose between meals and going to see him as well.”
As another passing driver beeps their car horn in support of the strike, Tom tells me that management have been trying to break the strike and stop people joining the union.
“Management have been crawling all over the store. We’ve had eight representatives from head office visiting since the strike was announced.
“They follow us around, break up groups of workers, make sure we’re not talking about the union and that has been pretty much their attitude since the start of it.”
But he tells me that workers are growing in confidence and he hopes they will inspire others. As for the next steps, Tom says more workers are joining the union.
If McDonald’s fail to listen to the demands of its workers “we are hoping that the strike spreads across the country.”