Published on Thursday,May 24, 2001 in the Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg, SA
McGreed Refuses to Help Raped Employee
by Sizwe Samayende in Johannesburg
American fast food giant McDonald's has been dubbed "McGreed" in
Mpumalanga after refusing to supply anti-Aids drugs to a staff member
who was raped after working a late shift.
The transnational corporation refuses to supply transport for staff who knock off between midnight and 2am, and who are regularly ambushed by criminals.
A 29-year-old waitress who was gang-raped in February is so terrified of going home after work at the McDonald's Nelspruit branch that she spends her nights hiding in the local mall and only leaves after sunrise.
The waitress, who lives in a rural village and is too afraid to be named, is still bitter about McDonald's rejection of her appeal for help to buy anti- retroviral drugs.
"They instead offered me a short-term, six-month loan to buy AZT. I only earn R40 a day and there is no way I could repay the loan, so I was forced to beg family and friends for help, and eventually only got AZT after contacting a community-based anti-rape organisation," said the woman.
"My HIV test has come back negative but there is a window period. If I do end up getting HIV, McDonald's will have helped sign my death warrant."
She also stressed the humiliation of having to repeatedly relate her ordeal to family and friends to convince them to help her buy AZT, which costs roughly R2 400 for a short course.
McDonald's has not provided the trauma counselling it promises employees, and has not offered the waitress the option of working during the day. She might still see some justice, however, after spotting two of her attackers at a taxi rank last week.
"I was going home and saw the men just standing there. I was luckily near a police station and had the men arrested," she said. The men are scheduled to appear in the KaBokweni Magistrate's Court next week.
McDonald's human resources director Alfred Enagbare expressed concern at the trauma the waitress suffered, but insisted "we can't just give money to everyone who asks for it".
"We only learned of the attack nine days afterwards, when the [Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project (Grip)] contacted me to ask for funding for AZT," said Enagbare.
"I explained we can't just give money to everyone who asks for it, and told her that we had offered assistance but that the [waitress] had refused."
Enagbare was unable to say what the proposed assistance had been, but said McDonald's usually offered to change shifts and paid for trauma counselling.
He was unable to say why neither policies had been implemented in Mpumalanga.
McDonald's marketing supervisor Natalie du Preez added that the company would launch an official probe into the incident in light of new information provided by the media.
Grip chief executive Barbara Kenyon branded MacDonald's policies as unethical, insisting that the bureaucratic muddling could cost lives.
"There is a very short window period for AZT to save someone's life. How can you offer someone who only earns R9,20 an hour a loan for a drug that costs over R2 000? It would take years to pay off," said Kenyon.
"Our appeals for help on emotive issues like rape and Aids weren't even handled sensitively. Enagbare was rude and eventually slammed the phone down in my ear."
Mpumalanga's Department of Labour director Phineus Mothiba agreed that the Basic Conditions of Employment Act clearly stated that employers must provide transport for workers if their safety was threatened.
Mothiba said employers were also obliged to set up an employee assistance programme that gives guidelines on what the company would do in certain situations. " African Eye News Service
Copyright © 2001 Mail & Guardian. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media