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Pressured to take part

Pizza Express waiters claim they were coerced into handing over tips to charity
Hajera Blagg, Monday, July 1st, 2019

In the latest instance of ongoing tips abuses, waiters at Pizza Express have claimed they were forced by bosses to hand over to charity the cash they’d worked hard to earn.


Waiters at the popular casual dining chain, which has previously come under fire by Unite for deducting tips from staff, told the i that during the chain’s annual charity fundraiser week, staff were put under pressure to donate tips to Macmillan Cancer Support.


Both waiters who spoke to the i reported that management set up designated ‘tips tables’ for the fundraiser – any tips given to waiters from these tables during their shifts would go to the charity automatically.


One waiter, based in London, said that while bosses did not say participating in the fundraiser was compulsory, they felt obliged to take part because they were afraid of the repercussions.


Another Pizza Express waiter, based in Yorkshire, said that when they raised concerns over being forced to participate in the fundraiser, management responded by warning staff that they would be seen as “black sheep” if they did not take part.


“There was no choice,” the waiter, who asked to remain anonymous, told the i. “I was surprised, I said no, if I want to give to charity I will do it myself…I was the only one to say no. My manager was upset with me.”


Both waiters, who are on the minimum wage and so depend on tips to make ends meet, said they were entirely supportive of charitable causes. But they did not think it was right that they were effectively coerced into participating.


The latest revelations comes just weeks after it came to light that a waiter at restaurant chain Wahaca was forced to foot the bill after customers walked out without paying.


Labour leader of Camden council Sarah Hayward highlighted the issue in June in a tweet to Wahaca which has since been liked and retweeted more than 8,000 times:



Not long after the tweet, another Wahaca waitress in Cardiff spoke out, saying she had left the restaurant where she worked in tears after customers did a ‘runner’ and a manager forced her to cover the £40 bill.


The incidents sparked widespread outrage, and prompted Unite to reiterate its call for government to keep its promise and introduce legislation to stop management’s abuse of staff tips.


Now, commenting on the latest news that Pizza Express is reportedly forcing staff to hand over tips to charity, Unite regional officer Dave Turn bull said, “It seems that employers and managers in [the hospitality] sector still seem to believe that tips are a pool of money they can dip into whenever they feel.”


He added that the chain should not “allow managers to apply undue pressure on minimum wage workers to hand over tips left for them for good service.”


Find out more about Unite’s Fair Tips campaign and how you can help by writing to your MP here.


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