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Analysis: McDonald’s brings more than £36m to Norfolk over three decades

PUBLISHED: 14:18 19 June 2014 | UPDATED: 10:32 20 June 2014

McDonald's logo. Rui Vieira/PA Wire

McDonald's logo. Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Fast food chain McDonald’s has injected £36.3m into Norfolk’s economy over the past 30 years, according to a study commissioned by the company.

Analysis

The record levels of employment may have given credibility to the government’s claims that its long-term economic plan is working.

But as some critics suggest, these figures can only be considered an achievement if the numbers translate into high quality jobs.

Much of this argument has centred around fears that the rise in employment has been fuelled by companies recruiting workers on zero-hours contracts.

While these agreements offer greater flexibility, they can also mean the employer has no obligation to offer work.

Previous reports have suggested that McDonald’s is one of the biggest zero-hour employers in the private sector.

But a leading think tank has backed the restaurant group’s standards, claiming it has one of the highest rates of worker satisfaction in the fast-food sector.

Ian Brinkley, chief economist at The Work Foundation, said: “Zero hour contracts can neither be labelled as good nor bad because it comes down to the individual employer.

“In recent years they have become a burning rod to symbolise everything that is wrong with the labour market. But you will find that if you have an employer that is going to treat you badly then they do not need a zero hours contract to do it.

“Two or three years ago they did not exist in people’s view, but the latest statistics suggest they were just as prevalent in 2004 as they were in 2012.

“In an ideal world you would want a balanced economy with regard to employment. Some of McDonald’s jobs maybe on zero-hour contracts, but they do offer opportunities to further one’s career.”

A spokesman for McDonald’s said: “They are permanent contracts of employment that work for our people and our business, and that is why we use them.

“Three-quarters of our employees say that flexibility is one of the main things that they value about their job at McDonald’s, and these contracts support the flexibility we offer them.”

The firm has created 1,800 jobs and opened 17 restaurants since launching its first Norfolk franchise in King’s Lynn in 1984, the report by Development Economics has found.

Two key drivers for the business have been its restaurants in Norwich and Thetford, which have generated £7m and £6.6m respectively.

But the company’s employment strategy has been scrutinised for its reliance on zero-hour contracts, which the company has used since entering the UK in 1974.

• Graphic: McDonald’s impact on the Norfolk economy

It comes as the restaurant chain pledged to create 8,000 new jobs across the UK over the next three years, targeting first-time workers and recruits under the age of 25.

Chancellor George Osborne said the plans aligned with the government’s strategy to boost employment and bring greater economic security to families.

“A key part of our long term economic plan is creating jobs,” he said. “That means creating the right conditions for successful companies to invest and expand their workforce. Over two million private sector jobs have been created since early 2010 and more people are in work than ever before.

“It is fantastic news that McDonald’s is creating 8,000 new jobs here in the UK, especially with the majority going to first-time workers and under 25s. Every new person in work means a brighter future and more economic security for them and their family.”

The company published a report which showed that since the first McDonald’s outlet was opened in this country, the firm has contributed more than £40bn to the economy.

British businesses benefit from annual supply chain spending of around £2bn thanks to McDonald’s, said the report.

Chief executive Jill McDonald said: “By taking a responsible and long-term approach we have been able to support jobs for local people and create opportunities for UK-based businesses.

“Our continued growth will enable us to further expand our workforce with 8,000 new jobs created over the next three years, and in many cases give thousands of young people a valuable opportunity to start building their careers.”

• Do you have a business story? Contact business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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