Unhappy Meal: Unions expose McDonald's tax practices

McDonald's found guilty of avoiding 1 billion euros, approximately 1.4 billion in Canadian dollars, in taxes from 2009 to 2013. 

Geneva (5 March 2015) — Fast-food and public-sector unions from across the Atlantic came together to expose the extent of the tax avoidance practices of fast food giant McDonald's.

A joint report from unions and the NGO War on Want shows that McDonald's has avoided over 1 billion euros between 2009 and 2013.

Governments punish workers and the public while letting multinationals go

Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of the Public Services International, says that European governments have no excuse for painful austerity measures, while multinational companies are allowed to avoid this amount of taxes.

“Who can be surprised that corporate profits and inequality grow while unemployment rises and public services are cut, when we now know that companies like McDonald’s shift their profits out of the countries that make them wealthy. Everyone benefits when companies pay tax where they make the profits,” Pavanelli said.

Tax avoidance another problem with fast-food giant

While McDonald’s portrays itself as a vital provider of jobs, particularly for youth, its workers often experience precarious, low-wage work with little prospect for steady employment or advancement. In the U.K., for instance, the vast majority of McDonald’s 97,000 workers are on zero-hours contracts—employment contracts with neither guaranteed hours nor work schedule stability.

While McDonald’s poor working conditions are well known, this report, Unhappy Meal, is the first to shed light on the company’s tax record. It relies on primary data drawn from the financial accounts of the company and its subsidiaries as well as from press and research reports.

While transnational corporations like McDonald’s are avoiding taxes in Europe, public sector workers are having their wages slashed, and nurses and social services workers are facing layoff­s. In fact, more than 56,000 tax inspectors have been cut throughout the EU at precisely the moment they are most needed to investigate companies like McDonald’s.

More information:

Unhappy Meal (pdf)


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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