McDonald’s is not just a tax dodger, but a bad employer: workers come to Brussels to demand action!

15.01.2016 | admin

A bad week for McDonald's, as three petitions denouncing their working conditions are submitted to the European Parliament and Italian consumer associations launch antitrust complaint.

McDonald’s is a colossal corporation: the world’s second largest private sector employer, with restaurants in 119 countries and a global turnover of $90 billion. It is also the prime example of a business model that seeks to maximise profits at all costs, with no regard to the impact on workers, consumers or taxpayers.

A broad coalition, including trade unions, NGOs and consumers associations, has come together to expose the connection between McDonald’s the tax dodger, McDonald’s the bad employer and McDonalds’ dominant market position. It’s all part of the same business model that’s bad for everyone except the shareholders.

McDonald’s dodgy tax dealings in Europe have already been uncovered by the Unhappy Meal report, which found that the corporation avoided over €1 billion in tax in Europe between 2009 and 2013.  Now fast food workers from Fight For 15 in the US joined McDonald’s workers from European trade unions to denounce the poverty wages and the terrible working conditions that are so often the norm. They presented three petitions to the European Parliament, demanding action on working conditions in Belgium, France and the UK.

EPSU joined meetings with MEPs to make the link between McDonald’s tax avoidance and the disgraceful conditions highlighted by the workers. (Photo with the Socialists and Democrats group of the TAXE committee above.) The multinational’s tax rulings in Luxembourg are now under investigation by the European Commission, but that doesn’t mean that there are not other parts of McDonald’s aggressive tax planning that need explained. The European Parliament’s TAXE committee has a new mandate for another six months. Following McDonald’s evasive responses to MEPs’ questions in the hearing last year, the company should be called back to explain itself.

On the same day, a group of Italian consumer associations filed an anti-trust complaint with the European Commission against McDonald’s. The accusation is that the corporation takes advantage of its dominant market position to impose restrictive and disproportionate terms on its franchisees. This is anti-competitive behaviour that appears to be illegal under European law. The consumer associations have also complained that McDonalds’ restrictions on franchisees harm consumers by leading to higher prices and worse service for consumers in franchise stores compared to corporate-owned stores.

The point was repeatedly made by trade unionists from both sides of the Atlantic that the workplace struggles for decent wages, better conditions and the right to a union go hand in hand with the fight for McDonald’s to pay its fair share of tax. The corporation has a business model that squeezes everything it can out of its workers, countries where it operates and consumers. Fighting together, we can make McDonald’s change its model and start to behave like the responsible company it claims to be.

The antitrust complaint got a huge amount of media attention. Check out this article in the Wall Street Journal, hardly the most progressive paper. There were hundreds of mentions of the complaint in all kinds of publications, from Le Monde to Buzzfeed.

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