IT is hidden away in the dictionary between maize and meal, but the word McJob has caused a real stir for Swindon employees.

It indicates a poorly paid menial job, and has caused a big headache for the public relations arm of the fast-food giant McDonald's.

So staff, sick of being branded as no-hopers, have hit back with a declaration of pride in their job.

Swindon Mayor Michael Barnes was taken around the kitchens of the restaurant in Great Western Way yesterday to show the outside world what was cooking.

Paul Booth, franchise owner of five Swindon restaurants, said: "The McJob' definition is out of date, out of touch with reality and most importantly insulting to the hard-working, committed and talented people who serve the public every day."

More than 3,500 people are employed in restaurants in Swindon, and for some of them the job was their first point of contact with British culture.

Jasmina Fernandez arrived in Swindon five years ago when her family came here from Goa in India.

The 23-year-old shift manager spoke little English when she took on a job as a crew member.

Jasmina, from Ferndale Road, said: "The job really helped me to integrate here and I learned to improve my English through daily contact with customers.

"There was regular training and I found plenty of opportunities to move upwards and get more management qualifications."

Tom Cox came from Disney's Space Mountain to work at McDonald's. The 25-year-old running manager from Priory Vale said previous jobs at Disneyland Paris and running a restaurant in Cheltenham did not measure up.

He said: "The team here is very friendly and there is plenty of room to improve yourself if you want to.

"I think this is better than the restaurant I worked at and I hope that I will still be working for the firm in several years' time."

Staff members have been signing a Change the Definition petition that aims to eradicate the word from the history books.

But activist Andy Newman has campaigned against the loss of variety that comes from the growth of the big chains.

He said: "I'm not criticising McDonald's as an individual case, because it's symptomatic of the industry as a whole.

"The wages that are paid by fast food restaurants in Swindon are not high enough for people to have a decent standard of living.

"Plus these restaurants use very aggressive advertising that makes it hard for parents to buy healthy food."