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McDonald's workers occupy restaurant in France and distribute food to local neighbourhood

MCDONALD’s workers in France have occupied a restaurant and are using it as a base to distribute food to those struggling in the coronavirus pandemic.

Marseille locals are being supported by a range of groups including the Syndicat des Quartiers Populaires de Marseille (Union of the Popular Quarters of Marseille), which took over the McDonald’s in Saint-Barthelemy, in the north of the city, earlier this month.

Shopkeepers, residents and the foodbank procure food, which is stored in the restaurant’s fridges. It is then distributed in boxes to the neighbourhood, which has an unemployment rate of 25 per cent compared with the national average of 8.5 per cent.

Many are struggling to make ends meet and 39 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Local trade unionist Kamel Guemari said that the Covid-19 pandemic has left many people with limited support.

“In this state of emergency, if we don’t take action for our neighbourhoods, who will?”

Maison Blanche Neighbourhood Association spokeswoman Nair Abdallah explained: “Families are starting to tell us that they no longer have anything to eat. One mother said that she and her children had nothing but onion soup to eat for more than three days.”

The workers’ lawyer Ralph Blindauer explained that the global fast-food chain opposed the action. He told the Journal La Marseillaise newspaper: “We would have preferred to do this with an agreement from McDonald’s France but they said no, citing liability.

“They are devoid of the slightest bit of humanity, so the workers just decided to ignore them.”

Signs outside the restaurant say: “We want equal rights for everyone, everywhere” and “We live here. We work here. We are staying here.” They also brand McDonald’s a tax cheat.

McDonald’s is pressing to reopen in France, but unions have warned of the unnecessary risk to workers in opening such non-essential workplaces.

The Saint-Barthelemy restaurant was the site of a major dispute last year, when lawyers submitted a file claiming attempted murder against Mr Guemari — then a shop steward at the franchise — after a car nearly ran him over in the car park.

The incident came at a time when workers were demanding union recognition and improved terms and conditions.

McDonald’s was accused of trying to get rid of Mr Guemari, who led the campaign. 

The Marsactu newspaper reported that the chain had paid €25,000 (£22,000) to solicit false testimony in a bid to sack him.

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