22 Sep 2021

Union claims McDonalds failing social distancing guidelines at drive throughs

5:39 pm on 22 September 2021

A union claims McDonald's is failing to follow social distancing guidelines when customers are paying at drive-throughs.

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File image. Photo: 123rf.com

McDonald's is reopening its drive-throughs at more than 50 restaurants across Auckland this morning, as alert level 3 begins.

But when customers come to pay, the window between the customer and staff member is open and can be less than two metres in distance.

This is not the case when customers pick up their food further down the drive-through.

When picking up food, customers are asked to not open their car window until food is placed on a ledge outside by staff and the drive-through window to the restaurant is shut.

Unite Union national secretary John Crocker said the payment process was "frustrating".

"They've got a stick for EFTPOS or cash but in most situations, the customer and the worker are going to be in two metres of each other, which we think breaches the guidelines," Crocker said.

Other restaurant organisations such as Restaurant Brands who run KFC, Pizza Hut, Carl's Jr and Taco Bell, closed the window between staff and customers during payment, he said.

The Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff agreed it was a concern.

"That's a high volume part of our economy, people going through drive-throughs, and the worst thing that could happen obviously is that we're spreading infection and the pandemic there."

McDonald's spokesperson Simon Kenny said unlike some other businesses, general security measures meant EFTPOS units were wired and secured, so completely closing a window was not possible.

"We have a number of additional controls in place to manage risk, including employee protection screens, increased use of protective equipment and enhanced hygiene and sanitation. We also have multiple points reiterating to customers that masks are required."

McDonald's had submitted its processes to WorkSafe, he said.

Crocker said he did not find McDonald's argument "compelling".

He was trying to get WorkSafe to tell McDonald's the processes were not acceptable, but was having little luck.

"WorkSafe have agreed to something that we think is incorrect, now they're kind of softly agreeing with us, but not telling the company that they need to do the right thing.

"When we can't achieve what we want to through engagement with the company, we need a regulator that's going to back us up."

A WorkSafe spokesperson said businesses at level 3 had to have systems and processes in place for physical distancing and maintain compliance "so far as is reasonably practicable".

"Businesses and services unable to comply with the 2-metre physical distancing rule may mitigate risks by, for example, regular cleaning of surfaces or the installation of plastic barriers.

"McDonalds' processes as they have been explained to WorkSafe include both of those examples and meet that mitigation requirement."