Unite, Britain’s biggest union, will stage a ‘Fair Tips’ protest today (Friday 5 February) outside STK London – the American-style steakhouse inside the five star ME London Hotel over accusations that it is cheating staff out of their hard-earned tips in an alleged service charge scam.
WHEN: Friday 5 February at 19:00
WHERE: STK London, ME London Hotel, 336-337 Strand, London WC2R 1HA
Unite, which represents 3,500 workers in London’s hospitality sector, is alleging that the discretionary 15 per cent service charge, automatically added to customer bills, is being used to top up the salaries of four senior managers by as much as £50,000 a year each.
The allegation comes as Unite launches a campaign against Melia Hotels International, the Spanish-based owners of the ME London Hotel in the Strand and the White House, Regents Park over its refusal to recognise the trade union Unite in breach of its own globally signed agreements.*
Unite has accused the hotel’s management of keeping staff and customers alike in the dark over its refusal to provide details of the company tronc scheme - the system used to distribute tips and money from the service charge to employees - despite repeated requests.
Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: “We think the public will be very interested to know why these four senior managers declared that they were earning the National Minimum Wage of just £6.50 an hour back in February 2015 – the same as waiters and bussers – when restaurant managers in London can earn more than £60,000 a year.
“Restaurants and bars were banned from using tips to top up staff wages to the legal national minimum back in 2009, but that clearly hasn’t stopped STK from finding a nifty loophole to subsidise managers’ wages above and beyond the national minimum wage.
“We believe that customers will be outraged to learn that money from the service charge which they have paid in good faith may be being used as a monthly bonus to boost bosses’ wages by tens of thousands of pounds a year each, rather than going to waiting and kitchen staff.
“It is the ultimate kick in the teeth for customers and staff alike, if restaurants are allowed to dip into tips and the service charge without a shred of transparency of how the money is being used or who is benefiting from it. If managers are not prepared to reveal what portion of the service charge and tips they are pocketing, then they should leave them alone.”
“We certainly hope that the government’s response to its investigation into abuse of tipping, launched in the wake of last summer’s tips scandal, addresses these very serious transparency concerns. The business secretary, Sajid Javid now needs to speed up the investigation and deliver his report.
“Melia Hotels has a global agreement respecting trade union rights and management at the ME London Hotel should be keeping up company standards and acting ethically, instead they have been acting despicably.
“The good news is that our union is growing, chefs and waiting staff are uniting to work out their own fair tipping allocation policy.”
For more information please contact, Unite campaigns officer Chantal Chegrinec on 07774146777
Notes to editors:
*Melia was the first major Spanish hotel chain to sign a global agreement with the International Union of Food, Agricultural and Hotel Workers (IUF-UITA) to promote ethical standards, including the right of workers to organise collectively.
Unite made three key demands in our response to the Business Secretary’s, Sajid Javid’s tips consultation which was launched in August 2015, regarding troncs:
1. That HMRC guidelines are reviewed to ensure that troncs are genuinely independent and free from employer interference.
2. That legal protection against detriment should apply to elected tronc Masters and tronc committees to prevent victimisation.
3. That a code of practice with guidelines on good practice for tronc Committees should be drawn up in consultation with the conciliation service, Acas.
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