Unite leader Len McCluskey joined TGI Fridays protesters who demonstrated outside of the firm’s Brighton restaurant.
The protest was part of a national day of action on July 4 at 30 TGI Fridays restaurants across the UK against the company deducting 40 per cent of tips given to waiting staff.
As dozens of demonstrators – many of them delegates from the nearby Unite policy conference earlier this month – gathered outside at TGI Fridays at Brighton marina, McCluskey entered the restaurant to inform customers of the firm’s unfair tipping policy.
He told customers, “We’re protesting against TGI Fridays because they are starting to take 40 per cent of the tips from the decent men and women who are serving customers. These tips are going to the kitchen staff in order to top up wages that the company should be paying for.
“I’m sorry to disturb you but it’s a legitimate campaign and Unite is fighting for young people who are being ripped off by TGI Fridays.”
Outside the restaurant, cheering protesters, including “Bruce the Burger”, held “Fair pay, fair tips” and “Unite hospitality – join the fight back” banners.
Unite young member Victoria Egerton was one of those protesting outside the restaurant.
She said, “TGI Fridays workers are having their tips taken. If their tips are paid on card then 40 per cent is taken to top up the wages of the kitchen staff. We want fair pay for everyone and for the staff to keep their tips – so we’re telling people to make sure they tip in cash.
Egerton added that many other young workers in Britain also face injustice at work.
She said, “It’s really difficult for young people in precarious employment. If they’re under 25 they’re not entitled to the full national minimum wage, so many are already a lot lower paid than their older colleagues as well as being subject to things like zero-hour contracts. It’s not a good environment for young workers – especially in the hospitality sector.”
Speaking after the demonstration, TGI Fridays worker and Unite member Lauren Townsend (pictured below), said the campaign had snowballed since members from four stores voted 100 per cent in favour of strike action in April.
“We will continue to take action because the company is refusing to speak to us or listen to us or even acknowledge us. There’s been issues with the company for a few years but the catalyst really has been the tipping issue. We had struggled to recruit in the past, but over the last six months we have signed up more than 250 members,” said Townsend.
“Today has been fantastic. There’s been actions at stores up and down the country. There have been meals of justice, where people have stood up in the restaurant after they’ve eaten and spoken out against the company’s policies and protests. People have been sharing pictures and videos. It’s been such a moral boost for staff.”
Watch Lauren’s rousing speech at Unite’s policy conference in the video below: