Legal push for $1000 Macca’s payout
McDonald's is facing a massive revolt among current and former employees after the fast food workers' union claimed more than 250,000 were denied 10-minute rest breaks.
The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) and Shine Lawyers have launched a campaign for workers to come forward and potentially join a class action against the giant.
The two claim McDonald's had a culture of systemic denial of break entitlements since September 2014 that breaches the company's enterprise agreement and fast food industry award.
The investigation comes after a federal court decision at the end of August which found former employee Chiara Staines was not provided paid rest breaks on shifts longer than four hours.
"This breach could be the tip of the iceberg with potentially hundreds of thousands of staff, both past and present, affected, if McDonald's and its franchisees have breached the Fair Work Act across the board," Shine class action expert Vicky Antzoulatos said.
"Every Australian McDonald's worker has the legal right to a paid break when working a shift of four hours or more. This is in addition to workers' rights to access the toilet or to take a drink of water outside scheduled breaks."
Josh Cullinan, the secretary of RAFFWU, said hundreds had already signed up with the union and is he expecting the class action to attract many more.
He says at least 250,000 current and former workers would have been impacted, based on the restaurant chain currently employing 100,000 workers across the country with a 40 per cent turnover and an average length of employment of 1.6 years.
"They've got young, vulnerable and hardworking crews locked into a huge system that appears to be great for McDonald's but is crippling the workers," Mr Cullinan said.
"When we litigated Ms Staines' case she was paid over $1800 in compensation and we believe her experience is the average experience for a quarter of a million Australian workers who have worked at McDonald's since September 2014."
Darcy Dunlop, a 22-year-old former employee, said he was refused breaks for his team members when he was area leader at the Erina fast-food franchise in NSW in 2018.
"You can't sit, you can't lean, you can't go to the toilet without permission or get a drink of water, and if you ask for your owed break to be rostered in, you look like you're letting your whole team down by being a troublemaker," Mr Dunlop said.
"Your stress levels rise, the kitchen feels hotter, the finish line to a shift feels even further away, and I know this impacts on workers' right across Australia, which is why I urge everyone to get involved."
In a statement provided to news.com.au, McDonald's corporate relations director James Rickards said the company is yet to "receive any notification of the proposed class action" and would therefore not comment on the union's claims.
"We continue to work closely with our restaurants to ensure employees receive all the correct workplace entitlements and pay," he said.
"We are of course disappointed this did not happen in the instance of Tantex Holdings Pty Ltd," which is the franchisee operator implicated in the Federal Court ruling at the end of August.
"As was represented to the Court at the time, the franchisee's breach of the enterprise agreement was unintentional and did not result in any form of underpayment of wages," Mr Rickards said.
"The franchisee has already implemented processes to ensure ongoing compliance."
In the Federal Court ruling, Tantex Holdings was found guilty of several contraventions of the Fair Work Act over a series of posts to employee Facebook groups.
In a post Tantex general manager Christopher Crenicean made to a group for the McDonald's Windsor West store, employees were told: "What this means is that if we implement this (10 minute breaks) over our current situation, on your shift - this 10 minute break would be the only time you would ever be permitted to have a drink or go to the toilet.
"So I hope to god you don't get thirsty on your next shift because we just wouldn't be able to allow a drink. Fair is Fair right?"
Originally published as Legal push for $1000 Macca's payout