Unite is to submit a complaint to HMRC in the coming days, outlining a list of alleged minimum wage abuses against TGI Fridays, the American-themed restaurant chain, uncovered in the last 12 months. The union will also outline alleged irregularities with the running of the company’s tronc — a system used to pool and distribute tips and service charge to employees.
To mark the first anniversary of the campaign in support of TGI Fridays workers, who were involved in a series of strikes last year after their credit card tips were cut by 40 per cent, leaving them £65 a week worse off, Unite fair tips activists will stage a Valentine’s protest on Thursday (February 14) at the chain’s Covent Garden branch in central London.
Unite continues to be highly critical of the company’s handling of its tronc policy change, which left minimum waged waiting staff struggling financially when 40 per cent of their card tips were redistributed to kitchen staff, without warning, consultation or agreement.
Unite is calling on HMRC to investigate the TGI Fridays tronc, over concerns that it is failing to abide by the government’s E24 tronc guidelines which state that a tronc must be operated completely separately from the employer to take advantage of an national insurance tax exemption.
The alleged minimum wage abuses include a failure to pay staff for undertaking compulsory training in their own time and practices known in the trade as ‘clocking off’ and ‘holding back’ – this is when a manager will manually override a workers’ clocking off time to avoid paying overtime, and making staff wait to start their shifts until the restaurant is busier without paying them for this time, respectively.
The Unite members will use the protest to call on the government to give them a legal right to be consulted and a legally binding complaints procedure for challenging unfair tips practices. It must also ensure that its new legislation on tips, promised in October 2018 and still not yet law, makes the current voluntary code of practice on tips, gratuities, cover and service charges statutory.
“On Valentine’s Day we will be outside TGI Fridays restaurant in Covent Garden with a very loud message that we are not going away,” said Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull.
“TGI Fridays has behaved appallingly to its loyal and hardworking waiting staff. Without warning it raided the tips of one group of low waged workers to pay off another – in a move driven by the company’s failure to ensure that kitchen staff wages remained competitive, letting them drop to just one penny above the minimum wage.
“When this led to an inevitable retention and recruitment crisis in its kitchens it turned to raiding waiters card tips instead.
“In the last 12 months, we have uncovered an array of abuses from regularly skimming a few hours off the clock, to making staff pay for their own uniforms, and alleged serious irregularities with the running of their tronc,” he added.
“Some of our members, who are among the lowest paid workers in the UK, have lost £1,000 since the new tip policy was officially introduced last March, and the company has tried to silence them by denying their union reps the right to present collective grievances on both issues.
“Unite is calling on HRMC to urgently investigate, a formal complaint will be submitted in the next week. Ministers must also ensure that the new legislation on tips, promised in October, and which we are still waiting for, includes a ban on bogus tronc schemes,” Dave went on to say.
“Self-regulation has clearly failed. The industry has largely ignored the code of practice on tips and is failing to abide by the spirit of the government’s tronc guidelines. It’s time to make this code and guidelines statutory, giving workers a right to be consulted and protection from victimisation.”
Come join us at the demo on Thursday (February 14) from 5.30pm-6.30pm at TGI Fridays in Covent Garden, 6 Bedford Street London WC2E 9H2.