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Still waiting

Government report into tipping abuses delayed by two years
Hajera Blagg, Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Restaurant workers are still waiting for justice a full two years after the government said it would crack down on unfair tipping practices.


It’s now been 731 days since the then-business secretary Sajid Javid said the government would publish its tipping consultation to investigate abuses such as restaurants swiping waiters’ card tips, keeping some or all of the service charge, or charging waiters out of their tips if a diner does a runner, among other practices.


Javid said at the time that he was “surprised to learn of claims” that some restaurants were “acting unfairly when it came to discretionary payments.”


He then launched a public consultation which closed exactly two years ago yesterday (June 27) but the findings are yet to be published and Javid’s successor business secretary Greg Clark has so far refused to take action as well.


The second year anniversary of the government’s failure to tackle poor tipping practices comes as TGI Fridays waiters are in the midst of tips battle of their own. The waiters at several TGI Fridays restaurants have already taken multiple days of strike action over the last several weeks, with more strikes on the horizon.


They’re fighting a policy that was railroaded through by TGI Fridays management, which sees 40 per cent of waiters’ card tips distributed to kitchen staff – a move that leaves many waiters £250 worse off a year.


In addition to taking strike action the workers, along with their official mascot Bruce the Burger, delivered a letter to Clark earlier this month (June 12) highlighting the government’s failure to crack down on tipping abuses as it promised nearly two years ago.


As the TGI Fridays dispute rages on, Unite has not given up on achieving tipping justice for all restaurant workers. Over the last decade, Unite has won several key victories. In 2008, Unite successfully helped ban the practice of using tips to pay the minimum wage.


In 2015, Unite led a high-profile campaign to end the practice at Pizza Express of swiping an 8 per cent ‘admin fee’ from waiters’ card tips. Pizza Express eventually dropped the practice, and many other restaurants followed suit, which prompted the Javid investigation in the first place.


But two years later, the much anticipated tipping report has not been published and restaurants including TGI Fridays and others continue to rip off their workers.


Meanwhile, the Labour Party pledged earlier this month that it would reform tipping practices across the board, and ensure that waiters keep 100 per cent of their tips, whether they’re left as cash or on card.


“It’s simply not good enough that two years after this government first promised to crack down on some of the worst tipping practices in the UK hospitality industry, low-paid workers are still being forced to hand over some or all of their tips, and customers are no clearer on who is actually getting them,” said Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull.


“The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, needs to stop dragging his feet and publish the results of his department’s consultation into tips, gratuities, cover and service charges that closed two years ago on June 27, 2016,” he added.


“If the Government is serious about showing it is on the side of working people, it needs to take a leaf out of the Labour Party’s book and legislate to make sure that 100% of tips go to the staff, giving them total control over how they’re shared out, and ban rip-off tip scams once and for all.”


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