Dozens of protesters rallied outside the McDonald’s restaurant in Brisbane’s Queen Street mall – the largest McDonald’s in the southern hemisphere – on 12 January.

They were protesting a recent statement made online by the restaurant’s franchisee, Tantex Holdings, threatening to ban workers from taking drink or bathroom breaks outside of the allocated 10 minutes on shifts of four hours or longer. 

Tantex Holdings owns six McDonald’s restaurants in Brisbane and turns $10 million of profit each year. 

In a private Facebook post, a Tantex manager warned that if workers insisted on their right to a break, he would deny them the right to water and the toilet, writing, “So I hope to god that you don’t get thirsty on your next shift because we just wouldn’t be able to allow a drink. Fair is fair right?”

Josh Cullinan, secretary of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, says, “[Tantex] are the latest example of exploitation of young McDonald’s workers”.

A survey conducted by the union found that 92 percent of workers do not even have a rostered 10-minute break, despite it being a legal entitlement. 

Many ex-workers of McDonald’s were there to protest the mistreatment they endured while working at the chain. Noah Nicholson, a young former McDonald’s employee, told Red Flag of the emotional and physical abuse he and other workers experienced during his three years working there. 

“When they [the managers] were around there was always a sense of threat at the store”, he said. 

Noah did not have full management training and therefore was not qualified to take charge of the store at night. Despite this, he was unlawfully rostered for overnight shifts when he was just 17 years old. Bad as this was, Noah said it was preferable to working when the managers were present because they created an environment of fear for young workers. 

“There was the physical threat looming as well as just the general stresses of the day-to-day shifts”, he said.

Noah recounted an incident in which a 17-year-old worker was assaulted by his boss for accidentally setting off the fire alarm. “The manager was angry at this person and was having a go at them instead of accepting it for the accident it was.” When the worker stood up for himself, he was strangled by the husband of the manager. 

“It was all swept under the rug and everyone was neglected”, he said. “As long as people were making money, she [the manager] did not care.”