Third McDonald’s franchisee faces court for allegedly denying workers paid rest breaks

A third South Australian McDonald’s franchisee is facing allegations of workplace breaches in the Federal Court as the South Australian Branch of the SDA – the union for fast food workers – lodges a landmark case.

The SDA is acting on behalf of 25 current and former McDonald’s workers and alleges that franchisee IA & DM Robson Pty Ltd deliberately denied workers paid rest and drink breaks.

The union also alleges workers were told they could receive a free soft drink in lieu of a paid 10-minute rest break.

Thousands of dollars of compensation are being sought for the workers and the SDA is asking the Federal Court to award penalties against the McDonald’s franchisee for breaching the McDonald’s Agreement and the Fast Food Award.

IA & DM Robson Pty Ltd operates the Arndale, Croydon, Fulham Gardens, Port Adelaide, Harbour Town, West Lakes and Woodville restaurants.

Joshua Kaye, 22, worked at McDonald’s West Lakes for seven years until 2021. Kaye said: “For six years, I never received a paid rest break. Talking about our break entitlements was generally a taboo topic at work, so we avoided bringing it up with managers.

“Whenever I asked managers about paid rest breaks, they told me that we didn’t get those because we got a free drink instead.”

Brock Hedges, 25, was employed at McDonald’s Fulham Gardens from 2014 to 2017 and said he was never told about rest breaks by his manager.

“When I asked my manager if I could take my rest break, they told me I wasn’t entitled to them. I even had to attend a disciplinary meeting with my store manager because I asked about these entitlements. I felt like I couldn’t speak up about this issue or any issues at work,” he said.

This latest action adds to the two existing claims regarding paid breaks that have already been filed with the Federal Court.

One claim, against Olle G & J Pty Ltd, has increased from 14 claimants to 61, and in the recent action filed against Delbridge Investments Pty Ltd, the claimants have increased from 55 to 180.

There is also an adverse action claim for 22 workers at McDonald’s Murray Bridge against Delbridge Investments Pty Ltd regarding physical, verbal and psychological abuse by management.

SDA SA Secretary Josh Peak said: “It should not have to keep coming to this. The SDA has now lodged Federal Court action against three franchises, on behalf of 266 workers, across 15 restaurants just to ensure thousands of workers can get their basic entitlements.”

Peak said: “It’s clear that the denial of rest breaks has been deliberate, systematic and widespread across McDonald’s restaurants. A free soft drink is not a substitute for a paid rest break nor is a Big Mac is not a substitute for a pay rise.

“McDonald’s can’t continue to cut corners when it comes to their employees’ rights.”

A McDonald’s Australia spokesperson told Inside Franchise Business Executive: “As the SDA has suggested the matter is to go before the Court, it would be inappropriate to respond to the allegations made against the individual franchisee at this time.

“We continue to work closely with our restaurants to ensure employees receive all correct workplace entitlements and pay.”

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