McDonald’s Chinese employees don’t like the fast food chain’s end-of-year sales. Under the latest promotional efforts posted on the company’s official Weibo account, complaints from overworked frontline employees flooded the comments section, most of which are aimed at underpayment and overwork during frequent special offer campaigns.
“Can McDonald’s please think about its employees when planning these promotions? The employees are humans too, not your slaves! Do you pay us for the overtime? We are the ones doing all the work and receiving all the blame. Why don’t you come and try for yourselves? F[uc]k”, reads one of the top comments.
Branded as “End of year celebration”, McDonald’s latest deal will last 21 days throughout this December, which is putting enormous pressure on workers. Pandaily learned from a former employee, who chose to remain anonymous, that in an average McDonald’s restaurant in Guangzhou, workers (including their managers) have to work at least 8.5 hours a day during promotional days, sometimes even 12 hours straight.
McDonald’s regulations have an 11-hour working time limit, but during busy hours, it is not uncommon to clock out but continue working for another few hours. “I once worked from 8 in the morning to 1 a.m. Another time I worked from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., then back to work 6 a.m the next day,” said the former employee. Another employee complained in the comments section that he should have eight days off a month, but so far he hadn’t taken those days off for several months.
It is usual for a McDonald’s worker to perform multiple tasks at the same time, including ordering, cooking, packing, and often times, making apologies to impatient customers. Adding on dine-in orders, each restaurant also has to take orders from several online platforms. On special offer days, the managers will have to join their staff to help with the overload of orders generated by promotions. “Managers are the most miserable. The title sounds good but they are burdened with the pressure to achieve all kinds of goals set by the company, while having to do the work of ordinary staff,” the former employee said to Pandaily. A comment from @Totac said that in the restaurant she worked in, there were only two workers in the kitchen, who had to make 800 burgers on a promotion day. “Even our full-time employees are leaving. Soon McDonald’s executives will have to make burgers themselves.”
Apart from the demanding workload, low wages are another reason for the lack of human resources. In the case of Guangzhou, the hourly rate is 14.3 yuan – two thirds of the price of a Big Mac, and just about the same as the local minimum standard for full-time employment. On paper, workers cannot work over 200 hours a month, which gives them approximately 2800 yuan per month in the case of Guangzhou, less than one third of the city’s average monthly salary in 2020. But in reality, overtime is commonplace and many do not receive overtime pay. Other comments indicate 2000-3000 yuan per month is the average one could earn by working in a McDonald’s restaurant.
Many also mentioned CITIC Group, one of China’s largets state-owned investment groups and the operator of the McDonald’s business in China. In 2017, McDonald’s sold its mainland China and Hong Kong operations to CITIC and Carlyle, granting them frachise rights for 20 years, with CITIC controlling 52% of McDonald’s stake. The sale raised concerns from an American labor organization, the Service Employees International Union, who maintained that “Experience in other markets such as Brazil and Puerto Rico has shown the McDonald’s master franchisee model being adopted in Greater China is not in the interests of workers, as it makes it harder for franchisees to provide adequate pay and conditions.” The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) also warned about the intense pressure the sale will inflict upon franchises and individual workers.
Their warnings seemed to have come true. The former employee Pandaily interviewed said there weren’t so many promotions back in late 2016, when she started working there. But since CITIC took over, McDonald’s China has been aggressively launching promotions. “At first there was only the Member’s Month in August, then it became every Monday, then every Monday and Thursday, then every Monday, Thursday, and the weekends. There was an entire month of ‘breakfast month’ promotions last June… now we have another entire month to work with.” She also commented that McDonald’s employees had always been paid low, but the workload was much less in the old days.
Yet the story of the evil capitalist exploiting workers hasn’t seemed to have caught the attention of higher ups – neither from McDonald’s or the country’s labor market regulators – the topic didn’t even make it to Weibo’s “hot topic search chart”. The former employee Pandaily contacted said she had no hope at all that their calls on social media would make any difference. “McDonald’s is too big”.
On Decmber 3, the burger giant decided to reward its overworked workers each with a McDonald’s Smiling T-shirt and a free meal for two. “Let’s step into an exciting year of 2022 together”, wrote McDonald’s China COO Eva Lin towards the end of the announcement.