World News

McDonald’s hourly workers in U.S. demand paid sick leave as virus spreads

(Reuters) – Hourly wage workers at McDonald’s Corp on Tuesday sought paid sick leave for those working at its U.S. restaurants and an update to the safety protocols as coronavirus cases in the United States rise.

The burger chain has not trained or given any guidelines on the epidemic, McDonald’s cooks and cashiers associated with labor group Fight for $15 and a Union said in an email statement

Maurilia Arellanes, a McDonald’s worker in California, said on a media call organized by the labor group that she cannot afford to take a day off if she is sick.

“McDonald’s needs to step up and do everything it can to make sure workers like me are safe and that if we do get sick, we can take time off to get better without falling behind on our bills,” she said.

The labor group asked the company to pay workers for any missed shifts if its restaurant shuts down due to the spread of COVID-19. McDonald’s hourly pay for workers varies from $7.25 to $15 based on the state.

“As we proactively monitor the impact of the coronavirus, we are continuously evaluating our policies to provide flexibility and reasonable accommodations,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Restaurant workers have for long complained about poor pay and working conditions, drawing support from politicians and Fight for $15, which has regularly targeted McDonald’s calling for higher pay and union rights for workers.

Their demands come close on the heels of Darden Restaurants, the owner of Olive Garden and Bahama Breeze chains, saying it would provide its hourly workers paid sick leaves starting Tuesday.

Separately, retailer Walmart Inc said an employee in Kentucky tested positive for the coronavirus, adding that employees would receive up to two weeks of pay in case of infection or if their store, club, office or distribution center were quarantined.

Over 600 cases and 26 deaths have been reported in the United States due to the coronavirus. However, McDonald’s has not issued an update on the potential financial impact on its home.

When the outbreak was first reported in China late last year and the company said in January it does not see a big financial hit as it only collected royalty fees from China.

It last week decided to cancel its biennial in-person worldwide convention, attended by operators from around the world and set to take place in a few weeks. It will now hold a digital convention.

“The company canceled a meeting of executives and franchisees, but it’s not making any plans for us frontline workers, who cannot afford to take a day off without pay if we get sick,” said Fran Marion, a McDonald’s worker in Kansas City, Missouri.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Praveen Paramasivam; Editing by Arun Koyyur)