Workers in McDonalds in Cambridge and Crayford are making headlines today by staging the first ever strike by McDonald’s workers on UK soil.

The arguments between the workers and McDonalds are common in this type of industrial action. The workers are demanding a wage of at least £10 an hour, more secure working hours and union recognition. A McDonald’s spokesman said: “As announced in April this year, together with our franchisees, we are providing our people with the option of a guaranteed-hour contract, and all restaurants will have these contracts in place by the end of 2017.”

Where this dispute is of particular interest for UK franchising is that it raises the potential for the usually clear distinction between McDonald’s (as franchisor) and its franchisees (as the employers of the workers) to become blurred. Traditionally, employees of a franchisee have had no recourse against the franchisor if there is an issue with their employment. However, there has been growing concern in the UK that litigation in the US between McDonald’s workers, employed by franchisees, and McDonald’s itself (as franchisor) may find its way here. In 2016, a court in California considered whether McDonald’s was a ‘joint employer’ of its franchisees’ staff. McDonalds denied the claim, but agreed to pay $1.75 million in back pay and damages and $2 million in legal fees to the particular group of employees which brought the claim.