(Corrects dateline from Aug 17. No changes to text)
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA Aug 20 McDonald's Corp, the
world's biggest fast-food chain, was accused of mistreating its
employees and dodging taxes on Thursday during a Senate hearing
in Brazil, where politicians, union leaders and workers from
five continents voiced allegations.
McDonald's has come under increasing scrutiny worldwide for
allegations of labor abuses, health and safety violations, plus
tax evasion in Europe, and Brazilian Senator Pablo Paim called a
hearing to allow both sides to make their cases.
McDonald's deferred comment to its regional operator.
Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc, the world's largest
McDonald's franchisee and its main operator in Latin America,
where it employs 95,000 people and had sales of $3.7 billion
last year, was invited to attend the hearing but chose not to, a
company spokesman said.
"We are absolutely convinced that the company has complied
with labor laws ever since it opened its first restaurant in
Brazil 36 years ago," Arcos Dorados said in a statement. It said
the company was proud to be the top first-job employer for young
Union representatives told the hearing that McDonald's
franchisees in Brazil have denied workers' pay for extra time
worked, not allowed them to join unions and employed teenagers
in their kitchens without protective gear, causing some to
suffer burns from frying grease and grills.
"Instead of feeding society with good jobs and paying its
fair share of taxes, McDonald's feeds on communities, forcing
people into dead-end jobs and avoiding taxes," Scott Courtney of
the U.S.-based Service Employees International Union said.
The 1.9 million-member SEIU, which has backed the "Fight for
$15" (hourly wage) campaign in the American fast food industry
since a New York walkout in 2012, said the hearing was a chance
to draw wider attention to McDonald's labor policies.
"McDonald's is a global player, and people all over the
world should know it is an unfair player that should face global
pressure to pay its taxes and decent wages," said Jutta
Steinruck, a member of the European Parliament.
She said McDonald's is being investigated in Europe for
allegedly evading payment of 1 billion euros in taxes.
One of Brazil's largest labor federations, the UGT, filed a
complaint last Friday, asking prosecutors to investigate
allegations of tax evasion, unfair competition and violation of
franchise laws by Arcos Dorados.
The company said it had not been informed of the complaint
and said it was confident that it was "rigorously" following
Previous legal complaints in Brazil have not affected the
company and regulatory labor authorities have not taken action
Witnesses at the hearing called on Brazil's Congress to open
an investigation into the labor practices of the fast food
industry in Brazil, but that will require the signature of 80
lawmakers and concrete evidence of abuses, said Congressman
Antonio Carlos Mendes Thame, who attended the hearing.
The call for an inquiry was backed by 19-year-old Lucas da
Cruz Marques, who worked for 18 months at a McDonald's at a Sao
Paulo metro station until he was fired last month after joining
a union to press for better working conditions.
"I thought it was a good career opportunity to go and work
for a multinational company," he said. Instead, he said he found
a company that changed workers' shifts around to cut their pay.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Ken Wills)