Working for Mcdonald's in Europe: The Unequal Struggle?

By Tony Royle | Go to book overview

7

For a few dollars more

Comparing pay and conditions

We sold them a dream and paid them as little as possible.

(Ray Kroc, in Vidal, 1997:40)

The US economic model is usually seen as the driving force behind and as proof of the success of liberal economics. The USA is much less regulated than most European markets and trade unions are weak, allowing the market mechanism to function 'closer to perfection'. One of the ways in which the alleged 'efficiency' of more deregulated markets is measured is to compare the purchasing power parity of average net wages. For example, the Union Bank of Switzerland regularly compares average net wages with a basket of goods to indicate the purchasing power of different national currencies. Time and time again, the USA, paragon of the free market, comes out on top with high purchasing power and high average wages. However, the problem with this approach is that it does not take into account how evenly such wages are distributed across society. It tells us nothing about the way in which wealth is divided between those at the top of the scale and those at the bottom. However, 'liberalism' as engendered by the USA does not concern itself with the notion of equality, only the 'freedom' of the individual. But, in modern consumer society, being a 'free individual' may have little meaning for those with only limited financial resources. 'Collectivist'-orientated systems may compromise some individual freedom in order to promote equality, with trade unions and statutory mechanisms of worker representation limiting the worst excesses of the market and making business more accountable to other stakeholders in society.

However, in the current global economic climate, driven by liberal economics, such constraints are seen as aberrations. The goal is the relentless drive for 'efficiencies', higher profit margins and the removal of regulation. In this climate, workers have the freedom to be insecure and have their wages and conditions constantly threatened by market forces. Of course, highly skilled workers are always likely to be able to demand better wages, conditions and job security. But how many workers will be in this fortunate situation? As already suggested, most of the new jobs being created today are in the service

-150-

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Working for Mcdonald's in Europe: The Unequal Struggle?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables viii
  • 1 - Liberalism, Collectivism and the Multinational Corporation 1
  • 2 - Welcome to Big Mac 16
  • 3 - The Corporate Paradox 35
  • 4 - Mcdonald's at Work 56
  • 5 - 'there's No Place like Home' 85
  • 6 - Co-Determination? 119
  • 7 - For a Few Dollars More 150
  • 8 - Where's the Beef? 177
  • 9 - Conclusion 196
  • Appendix 215
  • Notes 223
  • References 226
  • Index 241
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