McDonald's grilled over labor, tax practices at Brazil hearing

Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:59pm EDT
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By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp (MCD.N: Quote), 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 (ARCO.N: Quote), 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 Brazilians.

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.   Continued...

A man holds a poster in a protest against labor abuses and poor working conditions, in front of a McDonald's restaurant in Brasilia, August 20, 2015. REUTERS/Adriano Machado