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Minster urged to act decisively to stop employers raid...

Minster urged to act decisively to stop employers raiding staff tips

10 November 2015

Restaurant workers need ‘decisive government action’ to stop employers creaming off their tips, Unite, the country’s biggest union has said in response to the government’s investigation into abuse of tipping which closes today, (10 November). 

Responding to the business secretary Sajid Javid’s call for evidence, launched in the wake of this summer’s row over big name restaurants skimming off tips and service charges, Unite wants primary legislation introduced to give restaurant workers 100 per cent ownership rights over tips to stamp out rip off practices. 

Unite further calls on Javid to conduct an immediate and urgent review of the 2009 voluntary Code of Best Practice which has been widely ignored by industry bosses. 

The union also firmly rejects proposals to cap ‘admin fees’ - the amount a restaurant can deduct from tips paid on a card – describing the move as legalising the raid on workers’ wages. 

Rhys McCarthy, Unite national officer, said: “We welcome this long overdue investigation into abuse of tipping and urge the minister to take decisive action to bring fairness to the UK’s low-paid hospitality workforce. 

“Customers and staff alike are crying out for justice after this summer’s media investigations lifted the lid on the murky world of tipping. They were outraged to discover that some of the country’s best known high street chains were skimming off the tips from their minimum-waged workers. 

“There can be no tinkering around the edges, restaurant workers should get 100 per cent of tips with control over how they are shared out to stop employers creaming them off. 

“The reality is that there would be no tipping abuse scandal had the government been true to its word in the last parliament and carried out the promised review of the 2009 code, agreed with employers, consumer groups and trade unions. 

“Many firms have simply ignored the voluntary code leading to them ripping off tips with impunity from staff. 

“The problem stems from the fact that tips paid on a card and service charges are the legal property of the employer, not the waiter.  It is this which makes it perfectly legal for employers to dip into to tips to cover everything from breakages, till shortages and customers who walk out without paying, as well as charging an ‘admin fee’ - however ethically dubious these practices may be.

“The minster needs to understand that until there are clear and mandatory rules giving staff 100 per cent ownership rights over tips with control over how they are shared out, rogue bosses will continue to find ways to dip into tips.” 

ENDS 

Note to editors: 

Unite’s Fair Tips campaign, launched in late May, to get Pizza Express to drop the 8 per cent admin fee it was skimming off tips paid on a card led to the lid being lifted on wide spread tipping abuses in the restaurant industry. 

Tipping successes

Restaurants including Strada, Prezzo, Giraffe, Ask, Café Rouge and Zizzi were all revealed to be pocketing a percentage of staff tips left on a card as an admin fee in a series of newspaper investigations over the summer. In a tremendous victory for the fair tips campaign, Giraffe, Pizza Express, Ask, Zizzi, Café Rouge, Belgo, Cote Brasserie and Byron Burger have all since bowed to public pressure and vowed to drop the admin fee and hand 100 per cent of tips to staff in future. 

Tipping abuses

  • Wahaca – the Mexican street-food restaurant chain founded by MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers was revealed to make waiting staff hand over a percentage of sales (3.3 per cent) from card tips at the end of each shift, regardless of whether they had made enough in tips to cover the levy. A similar practice was uncovered at Jamie Oliver’s chain Jamie’s Italian, which deducts 2 per cent from waiters’ table sales.

For more information please contact, Unite campaigns officer Chantal Chegrinec on 07774146777 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey