TGI Fridays workers are set to continue in their fight for fair tips as they down tools over the bank holiday weekend.
Workers at two TGI Fridays branches in Covent Garden in London and Milton Keynes will be striking for the fifth time, while TGI Fridays staff at a Stratford City branch in London will be joining strike action for the first time.
Workers are set to strike starting on Friday (August 24) for three days over the introduction of a tips policy that has seen many waiters lose on average £60 each week. The policy – which swipes 40 per cent of waiters’ card tips and distributes them to kitchen staff to top up their low wages – was railroaded through without consultation in January.
Since then, many waiters, some of whom are single parents, have struggled to make ends meet, since they depend on tips to top up wages that are as low as £5.90 an hour. The latest strike action comes just a month after it was revealed that TGI Fridays CEO Karen Forrester cashed in on a 40 per cent pay rise.
Despite overseeing only a modest rise in turnover and an actual fall in pre-tax profits, Forrester took home £365,420 this year, up from £260,000 the year before.
‘Come to the table’
Kiran Dinghra-Smith, a waitress at TGI Fridays in Stratford City, has since March lost £900 under the tipping policy.
“A lot have people have had to leave TGI Fridays because they simply can’t afford to work there anymore,” Kiran said.
She explained why she and her colleagues were striking for the first time.
“A company that makes over £17m profit in 2017 should be able to pay their staff properly,” she said. “We should not have to fight for basic rights such as getting paid training, getting breaks and keeping our tips.
“To my work colleagues, I say join us; to the company I say talk to us,” Kiran added.
Unite rep and TGI Fridays waitress Lauren Townsend also urged management to “come to the table”.
“At two TGI Fridays branches, this is our fifth strike, and staff at the Stratford City branch are joining for the first time,” she said. “The company needs to know that we’re not going anywhere. We’re fed up with low pay, with zero hours contracts and with bosses who fail to consult with us. They’ve so far refused to meet with us but they should know that we will not be ignored into submission.”
Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy hailed TGI Fridays workers’ bravery.
“Despite facing intense pressure from the company not to strike, our brave members in these three restaurants are taking a stand to stop the bad practice across the entire business,” he said.
“It takes immense courage to take on a hedge-funded owed, multi-million company like TGI Fridays but the support that our members have had from the public has been great. Customers do not appreciate the deception. They left their tips for the staff and that is where they should go.
“We urge TGI Friday’s to work with us to find a better way forward. We are ready to talk to find a sensible solution to this dispute but TGI Friday’s must recognise the distress and hardship its decision has caused, and start rebuilding trust.”
Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull agreed.
“It is inexcusable that a company, which claims to have the best interests of its workers at heart, can continue to refuse to sit down with our members and their union to settle this dispute,” he said.
“Our members are striking for a historic fifth time, not because they want to but because they’re not being listened to.
“It is companies like TGI Fridays that give the hospitality industry a bad reputation,” he added. “The sooner it realises that workers will no longer stand idly by and be exploited, the better it will be.
“Unite will continue to make the case for action in these branches to expose bad practice across the entire business.
“Our message to the company is ‘pay your staff fairly and talk to the union’. Together we can find a sensible solution to this dispute.”