Labour Relations in the Global Fast Food Industry

Labour Relations in the Global Fast Food Industry

Labour Relations in the Global Fast Food Industry

Labour Relations in the Global Fast Food Industry

Synopsis

This book surveys an analyzes industrial and employee relations practices, focusing on the global fast-food industry, and examines the extent to which multinational enterprises impose or adapt their employment practices upon national and supranational systems.

Excerpt

Mrs Thatcher once said 'you can't buck the market'. Yet it seems that the fast-food industry has been able to do just that. McDonald's, the best known brand in the world and often cited as the driving force behind the success of the industry, appears, so far, to be able to operate free of the capitalist trade cycle. Regardless of downturns or weaknesses in national economies McDonald's continues to expand at a breathtaking rate. Every day on average four new McDonald's restaurants are being opened somewhere around the globe. It plans to have 50,000 restaurants by 2010 (double the number it had in 2000) and already employs over two million people in 118 countries. Although there is some evidence of diversification much of its future growth is likely to depend on overseas expansion. While there are 46 McDonald's restaurants for every million residents in the US, there are only three outlets per million people on average elsewhere. Per capita annual sales in the US are $54, whilst elsewhere in the world they average only $4. However this growth is not only restricted to McDonald's: other burger and chicken companies as well as pizza companies and sandwich shops are also expanding rapidly. For example, seven of the largest fast-food operators in the European Union already employ well over half a million workers and multinational corporations (MNCs) such as KFC, Burger King, and Pizza Hut each, in 1999, generated sales of around $550 million outside the US. In part this reflects broader changes in society. As the chapters on both Russia and Canada reveal, in the industrialized countries eating is no longer primarily concerned with survival or even social interaction, but with convenience. Of course the rapid expansion of fast-food is also reflected in the dramatic growth of the service sector over the last 30 years, which now accounts for around 70 per cent of employment in the UK, Canada and the US. MNCs are driving much of this growth including retailers such as Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the US, and McDonald's, the largest in Brazil (Klein, 2001; Schlosser, 2001).

However, the growth and success of the service sector and particularly fast-food has arguably come at high cost in terms of workers' rights, pay levels and conditions of work. The key to the success of fast-food revolves around limited menus and highly standardized product offerings, which

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