Are Macca’s workers being short-changed? Picture: Mike Stewart/AP
Are Macca’s workers being short-changed? Picture: Mike Stewart/AP

McDonald’s accused of exploiting young workers

MCDONALD'S has been accused of exploiting underage workers paid as little as $8.43 an hour by gradually reducing their shifts as they get older under a practice dubbed "learn and churn".

The ABC's 7.30 spoke to employees who reported getting fewer shifts as they got older before eventually leaving the company. One manager told the program getting rid of older workers was an "unspoken rule".

Nearly two-thirds of the fast-food giant's 103,136 workers are aged between 14 and 18, the youngest of whom can be paid just 50 per cent of the minimum wage under Australian law.

That increases by 10 per cent each birthday until the age of 21.

"A lot of the time they talked about how they were trying to get rid of certain people for this reason or that reason - a big one was when people were getting too old," Brisbane store manager Max Beech told the program.

The term "learn and churn" was first used by a McDonald's franchisee giving evidence for the Fair Work Commission's most recent Annual Wage Review.

McDonald's Australia chief executive Andrew Gregory denied it was an official policy, telling the program it was a phrase he "hadn't heard until we saw it come up in the testimony".

"We feel it's bad business practice on our behalf if that's happening," he said.

Retail and Fast Food Workers Union secretary Josh Cullinan told 7.30 the system was "exploitative".

"They use casual employment and junior rates to basically cycle workers off under the apprehension that those workers are going to get more hours as they get more skills in the workplace," he said. "That's not what happens."

McDonald's, which has annual revenue north of $5 billion, often talks up its role as the country's largest youth employer. Last year, it rolled out a filter for picture messaging app Snapchat allowing users to submit video job applications.