Students and staff rally in support of McDonald's workers this morningAbdullah Shah

Cambridge McDonald’s staff and supporters rallied on the picket line this morning to demand a living wage of £10 an hour, union recognition, and an end to zero-hours contracts.

At the McDonald’s branch in Newmarket, on the outskirts of Cambridge, approximately 60 supporters picketed outside the car park. It was a diverse crowd, with film crews, striking workers, Cambridge students and University and College Union (UCU) members, as well as Momentum representatives, all making an appearance.

Many of those on the picket line held banners, with chants ranging from “hold our burgers, hold our fries, make our wages supersized,” to “workers, united, will never be defeated.” Some patrons were seen entering and exiting the building, as picketers cleared a path for families on their school run.

The Cambridge Universities Labour Club (CULC) expressed solidarity with the strike in a Facebook post, and encouraged its members to join the picket line.

Cambridge students brought banners to express solidarity with the strikeAbdullah Shah

Cambridge Defend Education sent a contingent of representatives, and in a statement said that their “vision of liberated education entails fundamental transformations of economic and political structures, so that resources are oriented towards the well-being of people rather than the accumulation of wealth and power by some.”

Speaking to Varsity, one striking staff member who declined to be named, said “I think people don’t actually realise the hard work we put in every single day, and they don’t realise that we are so underpaid [...] especially in Cambridge, where costs are so high. We should have a real living wage and more respect in the workplace. £10 for McDonald’s, for such a huge corporation, is not a big deal at all.”

“All of the support feels really nice. We deal with customers everyday, but we forget that we have a huge support base behind us.”

“There is a division between students and locals that is massively connected to class, and it’s important that students make an active effort to bridge that gap.”

Keelan Kellegher, a second-year student at King’s, admitted that a “tendency exists” for students to remain insulated within the University and not engage with the wider community. “Even with a strike that was literally affecting us, i.e. the UCU strike, there was an enormous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding of what was going on and the reasons for it.”

These sentiments were echoed by first-year Murray Edwards student Alfie Rosenbaum, who said “I think it’s really important for the energy of the UCU strikes to extend outward to supporting causes that don’t necessarily directly affect Cambridge students or the University.

“There is a division between students and locals that is massively connected to class, and it’s important that students make an active effort to bridge that gap.”

Dr Jana Bacevic, a Cambridge UCU representative noted that “precarious work is not only a problem within the fast-food industry,” but in academia as well. However, she cautioned against overstating the similarities between last term’s industrial strike action from Cambridge academics, and McStrike – “in the sense in which academic workers are in many ways privileged.”

With local elections to take place in Cambridge on Thursday, a number of Labour candidates attended the rally, as well as the Cambridge Member of European Parliament, Alex Mayer.

Nicky Massey, who is running to be a councillor in Abbey ward, where the McDonald’s is located, spoke to Varsity, saying “we absolutely do need to have a living wage, especially here in Cambridge and across the country, the city council has already installed it [...] and it’s about time that bigger corporations like McDonald’s did the same.”


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Daniel Zeichner, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, had a representative address the crowd on his behalf, apologising for his absence and expressing “solidarity for the courage you showed [...] I could not be with you in person but I am in spirit.”

McDonald’s UK said in a statement: “We can confirm that industrial action took place outside five of our restaurants today, across these five restaurants only three people who were scheduled to work took industrial action, other attendees were protesters and not our employees on strike.

“Since September 2015, we have made three significant pay moves, and to maintain the many benefits we offer [...] As promised last year, everyone has now been offered a minimum guaranteed hours contract. Despite this, around 80% of our people have selected to stay on flexible contracts because they value the opportunity to fit their work around their other commitments.”