TGI Fridays workers at two restaurants in Milton Keynes and Covent Garden took part in their first ever strike today (May 18) over a new tipping policy that sees waiters lose £250 a month.
Dozens of workers walked out and joined picket lines Friday afternoon in what will be the first of a series of planned strikes against the US-owned restaurant chain. TGI Fridays workers at Trafford Centre, Greater Manchester and Haymarket, Piccadilly in London have also voted 100 per cent in favour of strike action and are set to walk out for 24 hours next Friday (May 25).
After lunchtime protests at the two TGI Fridays restaurants hit by the strike today (pictured below), the waiters joined McDonald’s workers – who are leading the first ever UK fast food strikes – at a low pay rally at Unite’s offices in central London.
TGI Fridays workers say they have been provoked into taking unprecedented strike action after bosses railroaded through a new tipping policy that swiped 40 per cent of waiters’ card tips and redistributed them to kitchen staff.
Bosses have tried to paint the striking workers as selfishly refusing to share tips with kitchen staff but the waiters have disputed this – after all, they already share tips with bar staff and assistant servers and want tips to be distributed fairly with their consultation.
TGI Fridays management have refused to give kitchen staff a proper pay rise and are instead subsidising their wages with waiters’ tips to staunch high kitchen staff turnover in a bid to maximise profits.
Striking workers told Unite of the massive impact the new tips policy has had on them. One waitress, who has calculated that she’s losing about £200 a month after the policy was introduced, pointed out that servers like her “live off the tips we thankfully earn, as we are all on minimum wage.
“Personally this has affected me massively,” she explained. “This year my boyfriend, who also works at TGI Fridays, and I were going on our first holiday together and had planned to travel through Europe.”
Now, she and her partner have had to forgo the holiday because, she said, “we can’t afford to take that much time off from work anymore.
“I’ve also had to consider giving up my flat, as money has become very tight after these changes,” she added.
Another waitress, who is a mother of two young children, told Unite that her job isn’t merely a part-time gig to earn extra cash – it pays her bills and feeds and clothes her kids.
“The new tipping policy has brought me huge stress over the last five months – I’m constantly worrying about money,” she said. “I have had to work more hours to try and compensate for the money I am losing. I now have less family time which is emotionally affecting me and my children.
“I lose on average £50 to £65 a week – money that I now have to find elsewhere but how are you supposed to do that? We can’t so that’s why we have to fight this.”
‘Ready to talk’
Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull (pictured below) said that the unanimous votes for strike action show the strength of feeling among the workforce about the injustice they’re now facing.
“Unite is warning TGI Fridays of a summer of disruption if management don’t do the decent thing and sit down with us to find a sensible solution to this dispute,” he said.
“Our members have sent a very clear message that they will not roll over and be bullied into having their tips taken, without any consultation and with just two days’ notice – a move that will leave waiting staff up to £250 a month worse off.
“This isn’t about minimum wage servers not wanting to share with their kitchen colleagues,” he added. “It’s about a company whose shareholders have gotten so greedy that they no longer want to pay their hardworking staff anything above the bare minimum.
Turnbull added that while the workers “won’t back down” they “are ready to talk”.
“TGI Fridays is urged to take us up on this offer and work together with Acas to start rebuilding trust,” he said.
He also called on TGI Fridays customers’ not to cross the picket line today.
Want to show your support for striking workers? Sign our letter to the CEO, Karen Forrester urging her to work with Unite and Acas to find a better way forward.