Striking TGI Fridays workers – who’ve downed tools on several successive Fridays over the last month – today (June 12) took their case to the government.
The workers, along with their official mascot Bruce the Burger, delivered a letter to business secretary Greg Clark highlighting the government’s failure to crack down on tipping abuses as it promised nearly two years ago.
The two-month consultation on tips, ordered by then-business secretary Sajid Javid, ended on June 27, 2016, following an eight-month review into tipping practices. But nearly two years later, waiters across the UK are still waiting for tipping justice, and the government’s failure to act, the TGI Fridays workers say, has allowed abuse to continue unabated.
TGI Fridays workers are now fighting a tipping policy management railroaded through earlier this year that sees 40 per cent of waiters’ card tips distributed to kitchen staff. Waiters are now losing on average about £250 each month.
The striking waiters have pointed out that the policy’s real intention is to claw back losses after the new national living wage was introduced, instead of giving kitchen staff a much-deserved proper pay rise.
Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull lambasted the government for failing to live up to its promises.
“Despite the government’s well-publicised ‘investigation’ and subsequent consultation into tipping abuses which closed nearly two years ago, nothing has been done,” he said.
“Rogue bosses like TGI Fridays are being let off the hook to abuse tips and exploit government/HMRC guidelines (E24) on tips and troncs, to boost their own profits and offset the cost of the government’s pay rise to low earners.
“How can it be right, that some of the country’s lowest paid workers are worse off now than they were three years ago when the government’s flagship national living wage (NLW) policy was first introduced?” Turnbull added.
“Workers at TGI Fridays have already had time and a half payments for working bank holidays axed and free staff meals scrapped since the NLW was introduced three years ago,” he highlighted. “When the company announced a 40 per cent cut to their tips early this year, they said ‘enough.’”
“The government’s failure to act is fostering exploitation and industrial unrest. It is also leading to higher staff turnover and skill shortages and is hampering Unite’s efforts to work with the industry on a voluntary code of practice on fairness and transparency.
“Unite is demanding that the business secretary, Greg Clark, stop dragging his feet and take action on tips.
TGI Fridays workers demanding tipping justice today from the business secretary comes just two days after Labour announced on Sunday (June 10) it would ensure waiters received 100 per cent of their tips under a Labour government.
“Tips should be kept by the staff who earn them, not employers,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “It’s not fair or right that in businesses across the country, hardworking hospitality workers have had their tips pocketed by their bosses under the guise of bogus admin fees, or to cover breakages, till shortages or customer walkouts.
“Labour will make it illegal for rogue employers to make deductions from tips, so staff get to keep 100 per cent, and customers know who their money is going to.”
Corbyn also announced a raft of policies to tackle sexual harassment, which is also endemic in the restaurant industry. The measures include legislating to prevent making any contractual clauses (NDAs) which stop disclosure of future discrimination, harassment or victimisation; doubling the timeframe within which employment tribunals can be taken; and requiring employers to publish their sexual harassment policy and the steps being taken to implement it on their external website.
Turnbull praised Labour’s new policies.
“Labour has promised to deliver justice for hospitality workers, showing that it really is on the side of working people, the government needs to do better,” he said.
BBC Daily Politics
BBC Daily Politics today (June 12) also highlighted the issue of tipping practices, with TGI Fridays worker Amy explaining why she and her colleagues were taking strike action.
“Guests deserve to know where their money is going,” she said, pointing out that while waiters often do share tips with other staff, the decision should be made by waiters themselves.
“Everyone deserves a share of the tip but the difference in our situation was that it was a decision made by the employer independently and it was taken out of our hands.”
Catch the full interview with Amy and a panel of guests discussing tipping practices here.