The Finnish service association PAM has called on the fast-food restaurant chain Hesburger to deal with complaints from employees about working hours and conditions.
The call came after a corporate campaign claiming to be a “responsible employer” led to social media significantly, and twelve current and former Hesburger employees told Yle about the ill-treatment of staff in the nationwide chain.
Complaints include, but are not limited to, chronic understaffing, workers must work 10 hours without breaks, and they must work without pay.
"This is completely at odds with Hesburger’s campaign of responsibility," Raimo Hoikkala, a union with an employment contract specialist, told Yle.
“We cry together during shifts because it’s so painful”
Current and former employees in the fast food chain told Yle that working conditions and excessive demands on young employees have often led to employee exhaustion.
"We cry together during shifts because it’s sometimes so painful" one current employee, a 21-year-old woman, said.
Former employee Jasmin Ristolainen said Hesburger’s work experience had a detrimental effect on his health.
"I didn’t know how far I was expected to stretch myself. I was at work from twelve in the evening without breaks," Ristolainen said. "I wonder what the social consequences will be if so many other young people are exhausted."
Other employees interviewed by Yle said that it is standard practice within the company to have only two people in a restaurant at a time, one in the kitchen and the other at the checkout. Due to the constant flow of customers and home delivery orders, there is simply no break.
"In the worst case, I didn’t have time to go to the bathroom," one male employee in his twenties who has worked at Hesburger for three and a half years told Yle.
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Undercrowding was a recurring theme throughout the interview.
"There are simply too few people on the turn. The rush is constant," A 19-year-old Hesburger employee working in southern Finland said, and many added, that the large increase in home delivery orders during the coronavirus pandemic has made working conditions in the chain "unbearable".
The increase in workload has not been reflected in the increase in the workforce, employees said.
The founder of Hesburger apologizes
Working conditions at Hesburger outlets became a hot topic of discussion earlier this week in the anonymous discussion group’s Jodel app after the company launched a “responsible employer” campaign.
Earlier this week, Helsingin sanomat newspaper and tabloid Evening paper both report "a storm of criticism" who followed Jodel in reaction to the campaign. IL also wrote that Hesburger was the founder Heikki Salmela said he did not see how the people who raised Jodel-related issues could be employees of the company.
Hesburger’s current and former employees interviewed by Yle were amazed at Salmela’s position, and one called "denying problems" within the company to complete.
However, Salmela later told the business magazine Economic life on Friday that he now apologizes to his employees and promises to investigate the issues raised.
"This is my number one priority now," Salmela said.
The experience of the first job can have lasting effects
For many of the employees interviewed by Yle, their role in Hesburger was their first experience of working life, some of whom said the company was able to take advantage of them.
"When we don’t know better, we can’t say no. We thought this is how it works," A 21-year-old Hesburger employee said.
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PAM’s Hoikkala said that the reputational damage caused to Hesburger by this episode and the experiences of the employees could have a detrimental effect on the wider industry in the future.
"Young people are the workers of the future, they choose the sector in which they go to work. The restaurant industry is already facing the challenge of attractiveness and labor shortages. Young people get their first experience of the industry here, and if young people have been treated unfairly, the restaurant industry will certainly not be attractive to them in the future," Hoikkala said.
In addition, he advised employees to first contact the union’s local shop steward if they have complaints in the workplace, and if the shop steward is not available or has not been selected, they can also raise the matter with the supervisor.
"It would be good if complaints could be clarified and dealt with during the employment relationship, otherwise the challenges will not change," Hoikkala said.
Source: The Nordic Page