Fast food workers under pressure
Young fast food restaurant workers told us what is wrong with their jobs. In particular, they report problems with the breaks mentioned in the collective agreements and compliance with working time rules.
Long working days without breaks. Always on the go. Have to keep working without pay after the shift has ended. Sent home from a shift without compensation. This is how former and present employees of the Hesburger fast food chain described their working conditions on the Jodel social media platform at the end of August.
Hesburger’s Responsible Employer campaign produced a flood of criticism when it ran up against workers’ own experiences. Amid the uproar, it quickly emerged that there are problems with working conditions in other fast food companies as well as Hesburger.
“These situations need to be investigated thoroughly and mistreatment of workers has to end. That’s why we stepped up our actions to rectify the problems that workers come across in fast food sector as a whole”, says PAM President Annika Rönni-Sällinen.
"Mistreatment of workers has to end."
Hotline set up to support workers
In early September PAM set up a hotline for all workers in the fast food sector to provide support with problems at the workplace – whether callers are union members or not.
The same problems with working conditions are repeated in the 400+ contacts PAM received: breaks can’t be taken, working alone and constant hurry wear you out, insufficient job orientation and you don’t dare to insist on your rights at the workplace. Increased use of home meal deliveries during Covid has also heaped the pressure on workers, because all at once you can get lots of orders coming in through all sorts of channels.
Wider debate started
Based on the calls to PAM’s hotline, many workers have become interested in building up ways of influencing their workplace and creating staff participation systems, like appointing shop stewards.
“It’s possible to appoint shop stewards at individual workplaces if enthusiastic PAM members can be found for that role. The shop steward elections in the autumn are a great opportunity to put your name forward. Now is a good time to put things right at workplaces”, is the advice of Lilli Kilpinen, head shop steward and occupational safety representative at Restel.
Acute need to improve workers’ situation
The hotline, which reached out to most fast food restaurants’ workers, has now been closed. The contacts the union received indicate that the problems with occupational safety and health as well as abuse of the rules on breaks are a general problem for fast food sector workers.
Some of the calls to the hotline have led to further actions and inquiries in individual cases. The union will continue to sort out cases with employees and engage with employers to find solutions.
”Only rarely did we get to take breaks”
”The work is tough, as its often busy and you can expect anything from customers. There are nice customers, but the hangry and screaming customers are taxing.
Rarely durin a shift did you have time to take a break and gather your thoughts. When I started, I was told the lunch break was 15 minutes. It soon became clear that you can't take your lunch break - nevermind a coffee break. Later, we were instructed that the lunch break could be replaced by sipping soda while you worked.
If the hourly productivity falls below a certain limit, I have to ask workers to go home, even if I don't want to. It's called flexibility, but in practice it doesn't work the other way around. It's hard to get more workers during a busy Saturday night shift. Sometime the work can be scary, as a few weeks ago when we found two drug addicts in the toilets. Luckily, I have a nice colleagues, which helps to cope with the work."
Shift manager at a hamburger restaurant chain
Employee, remember these:
1. It is not possible to change the roster unilaterally. If the employer sends the employee home in the middle of a shift, the employee has the right to receive compensation in accordance with the original duty roster, i.e. until the end of the shift. The situation isdifferent if the employee and employer jointly agree to change the duty roster, in which case the salary will be paid according to the actual duty.
2. If the shift is longer than 4 hours, the collective agreement on tourism, restaurant and leisure services provides that the employee is given at least one coffee break. Breaks are counted as working hours and may not leave the workplace without the employer's permission. If an actual break cannot be granted for reasons relating to the organisation of work, the employee must have the opportunity to enjoy refreshments during work. If the daily uninterrupted working time exceeds six hours, the employee shall, in addition to the coffee break mentioned above, have anopportunity to take a break of at least half an hour, or taking into account the working rhythm, have sufficient time during work to eat in a room suitable for meals. There must always be a real opportunity for meals.
3. It is the employer's responsibility to arrange sufficient induction for the employee. When you start in a new workplace, make sure you get orientation on your work tasks. Orientation and job guidance is the privilege of all personnel groups, including temporary agency workers, summer workers and seasonal workers.
Text:: Minna Raitapuro