'Huge kick in the teeth'
Staff at prestigious Glasgow restaurant The Ivy speak out about bosses’ mistreatment during pandemic
One of Glasgow’s most prestigious restaurants has come under fire from staff who have said they’ve been badly treated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Unite is supporting staff members of The Ivy restaurant in Glasgow by putting forward a collective grievance on a number of issues, including withholding tips, scrapping staff holidays with no option to carry them over and putting their health at risk by forcing them to attend face-to-face meetings in contravention of lockdown measures.
In the collective grievance, staff voiced their anger over the lack of transparency on how tips are distributed, and note that card tips are often not individually given to staff members.
Staff are especially incensed over the lack of transparency about the service charge, which is charged to every customer on top of their final bill, collected by the restaurant and then redistributed to staff.
“The lack of communication from the company, coupled with the arbitrary amounts included in our wages every week has led us to conclude that our tips are not being distributed fairly or equitably,” staff note in their grievance.
They believe too that commission is used to top up management salaries, and have also highlighted the unfairness of the standard amount of commission being reduced to offset a minimum wage rise in April. This, Unite says, is against company policy and in direct contravention of good practice as set out by government voluntary guidance on tips.
The Ivy, one of the most sought-after dinner bookings in Glasgow, is also part of the Ivy Collections chain of high-end restaurants across the UK, where Unite has reported similar issues in other outlets, including in Leeds, York and Harrogate.
Ivy staff in Glagow have also alleged that management have short-changed them on their holidays, with some staff having lost out on hundreds of pounds.
When staff were first furloughed during lockdown, all booked holidays were immediately scrapped and holiday requests as lockdown continued were denied. Management reassured their staff that they would be able to carry over holidays in line with new government regulations but then suddenly U-turned on the decision.
Staff were told about this while they volunteered to hand out meals to paramedics during the height of the pandemic.
The government announced at the end of March that it would be relaxing holiday carry over rules in response to the pandemic and lockdown, so that workers who could not take all their holiday this year could carry up to 4 weeks over for the next two years.
Staff were assured by their bosses this provision would apply to them but then later in a memo, senior management said, “This is an option for companies whose staff have had to work throughout the pandemic and were unable to take holiday due to being required to work. This is not the case for our business.”
Unite and its members have hit back against this claim, noting that the new holiday regulations apply to all workers, not just those deemed essential.
“The regulations go on to outline that when calculating how much holiday a worker can carry forward, employers must give workers the opportunity to take any leave that cannot carry forward by the end of the leave year,” the formal grievance noted. “The company has not only failed to provide that opportunity, it has expressly prevented us from taking holidays during lockdown. We believe this to be a breach of law.”
One anonymous employee told the Daily Record why they felt so let down by their employer.
“It’s a huge kick in the teeth,” they said. “Many of us worked to help hand out free meals to ambulance staff during the pandemic.
“Some have complained existing holiday bookings were scrapped and others had requests turned down and were told that the policy was still being drafted,” they added.
“Our holidays run from August to July, so a lot of staff have missed out on hundreds of pounds. I know of some people who had 26 days to take and have lost out. It’s a lot of money for people who don’t earn a lot.”
In addition to grievances on tips and holidays, The Ivy staff have accused their bosses of putting their health at risk by asking them to attend a meeting in person in June – at a time when stricter lockdown rules in Scotland forbade gatherings of more than two households.
What’s more, the restaurant has failed to allow the election of independent health and safety reps, has removed 1m distancing strips at the bar and has also failed to ensure booking sizes remain below the Scottish government’s maximum of eight.
When staff previously raised any of the issues that they have now put forward in the collective grievance, managers dismissed their concerns, passing comments such as “if you’re not happy with the holiday situation you can just leave” or “you’re lucky to be in a job”.
Unite hospitality organiser Bryan Simpson said that staff morale has hit rock-bottom and has urged management to change course.
“The way our members have been treated by Ivy Collections is disgraceful,” he said. “These workers have made the company millions over the years – a safe workplace, their holiday pay and 100 per cent of tips is all they are asking for.”
Simpson added that there is a growing groundswell of support from staff across other Ivy Collections outlets in collectively fighting for fair tips, holiday pay and decent health and safety.
“The serious issues outlined in in this grievance are not isolated to the Glasgow restaurant – similar things are happening across the chain and our members in England have began joining the grievance,” he said.
“Over 50 workers have raised these issues directly with the Managing Director of the chain but have been told that the company will not hear the grievance in a collective manner and wants everyone to submit individual grievances despite refusing to assure staff of protection from victimisation,” he added.
“We urge the company to stop trying to dismiss and atomise this collective grievance and launch a thorough investigation as soon as feasibly possible.”
By Hajera Blagg