The fast food workers’ union has hit McDonald’s with a $250 million-plus wage theft claim in the Federal Court over the alleged denial of paid rest breaks.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association is seeking compensation for more than 250,000 current and former workers across the country.
The union this month launched a new “mega” legal action involving 323 McDonald’s operators and the fast good giant itself, and spanning almost 1000 current and former McDonald’s sites.
The new claim is in conjunction with the SDA’s 15 existing Federal Court actions lodged against McDonald’s Australia and 14 franchisees — two of which are located in WA — since December 2020. The total compensation figure being sought is $250m plus penalties.
The SDA is alleging that not only were McDonald’s workers not informed of their rest break entitlements, they were also told breaks could be exchanged for a free soft drink or going to the toilet.
A McDonald’s Australia spokeswoman on Friday denied the company had ever engaged in “any practice amounting to wage theft” and said the current claims were “both surprising and disappointing”.
As one of the largest employers of young people in Australia, McDonald’s shouldn’t have to be dragged through the Federal Court for workers to receive their most basic entitlements
“McDonald’s restaurants have always complied with applicable instruments, provided rest breaks to employees and were consistent with historic working arrangements,” she said.
“Accordingly, McDonald’s Australia intends to fully defend the claim.”
It comes after The West Australian last year reported the SDA had filed a Federal Court action against Kanku Pty Ltd and franchisee Rodney Sinclair to obtain financial compensation for workers who allegedly did not get breaks they were legally entitled to at Rockingham and Secret Harbor restaurants.
SDA WA secretary Peter O’Keeffe at the time said a worker was allegedly given a break on just one occasion — because she was crying.
The other WA franchisee involved is Westmead Pty Ltd. which covers the Wanneroo, Banksia Grove and Warwick Entertainment Center restaurants.
Under the Fast Food Award, all McDonald’s workers are entitled to an uninterrupted 10-minute break when working four hours or more.
“Nearly 24,000 current and former McDonald’s workers across WA have allegedly been denied their breaks and are owed thousands in compensation by McDonald’s,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
“It’s clear this issue is systemic and widespread across the fast food chain.
“As one of the largest employers of young people in Australia, McDonald’s shouldn’t have to be dragged through the Federal Court for workers to receive their most basic entitlements.”
Mr O’Keefe said the court action was about sending a clear message that the “systematic exploitation of young workers in the West will not be tolerated”.
“We won’t stop calling out these exploitative behaviors until McDonald’s cleans up their act and compensates workers,” he added. “Anyone who has worked at McDonald’s in the past six years and didn’t receive their rest breaks is eligible to be part of our claims and we encourage them to contact the SDA immediately.”