‘Fast food for a fast world’ (Schlosser, 1998) – the fast food industry has, over the years, experienced rapid growth and expanded at a breathtaking rate, with McDonald’s as the main force behind the success of this industry. With over two million people being employed by McDonald’s across 118 countries in the year of 2002, there has to be many employment relations policies and practices in place, to ensure profits despite the huge labour costs incurred.
This essay will explore various aspects of work and employment relations on the management, and employees’ side, to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the fast food industry in Singapore with the fast food industry in Germany and the United States (US).
Basic employment practices was similar amongst the three countries, but Singapore’s employees in the fast food industry get to enjoy more favourable working conditions due to its Human Resource Management and laws imposed by its government.
This essay will be using the market leader of the fast food industry, McDonald’s, as the key example throughout the comparing and contrasting of work and employment relations across the three countries.
The management of McDonald’s in its origins at the US, enjoys great freedom in establishing the terms and conditions of employment for its employees. This is due to its extremely low rates of unionization and minimal intervention from the federal and state governments. (Leidner, 2002) Employers in the US may generally dismiss any employee ‘at will’, at any time, for any reason, or even for no reason, with no legal obligation of fairness to the employees (Leidner, 2002). There is great imbalance in the power of employers and workers in McDonald’s at US, where employers have all the freedom to decide its employment terms and conditions.
Some forms of Human Resource Management (HRM) were used in McDonald’s at the US. Work-evaluation sessions, incentive systems etc. work were what they would refer to as employees’ benefits, rather than providing significant material advantages. These policies are intended to promote team spirit, energize workers, yet create the impression that the management is attentive to workers’ concerns (Leidner, 2002).
The management in the US takes the unitarist approach and do not believe in trade unions. The management was anti-union, and took on a strong and determined opposition against any acts of unionization within its company.
Like the US, McDonald’s management in Germany adopts the same unitarist approach of not wanting the trade unions to be involved in their employment relations. Royle stated that ‘McDonald’s early approach to unions and statutory forms of worker representation was hostile’ (2002, p. 7). This hostility shows a similarity between the German and US managements’ mindsets of being anti-union.
Unlike the US, although it was not mandatory for employees to join a trade union, it was a norm in Germany to have works council. Works council were given extensive rights to information, consultation and co-determination supported by the law in Germany, and they can positively determine employees’ working conditions (Royle, 2002). ‘The German system provides workers with statutory rights to representation through works councils at the workplace, and through supervisory boards at boardroom level in larger firms’ (Royle, 2002 p.1). Work councilors also enjoy some forms of protection against dismissal. These show the strong importance of works councils and trade unions, in other words, employees’ rights and say, in the German employment law and culture, which is different from the US, of being more in favour of the employers.
Due to the norms and employment culture in Germany, the stance and measures which McDonald’s took in not wanting unions and work councils to be involved, led to many criticisms from the unions and the public. All these...