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Unite demands ‘fair tips’ law as Pizza Express hacks at waiters’ income

HOSPITALITY union Unite renewed its demand for “fair tips” legislation over the weekend as it emerged that Pizza Express has slashed the proportion of gratuities paid to its waiting staff.

In a divide-and-rule move slammed by the union, the chain upped deductions from 30 to 50 per cent in order to pay kitchen staff more when restaurants reopened on May 17.

Unite said the move would deprive minimum-wage waiting staff of a sizeable chunk of their low income and was made to avoid paying kitchen staff better basic wages as the chain seeks to replace some of the 2,500 staff it sacked during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The union has long campaigned for legislation to stop employers abusing tipping and demanded that the government deliver on promises made three times since 2016.

Pizza Express insisted that the decision was made by a staff tronc (tips pool) committee that was entirely employee-led  and had originally been taken before last year’s first lockdown.

Unite national officer Dave Turnbull said: “It was only a few months ago that Pizza Express fired 2,500 loyal employees instead of registering them on the job-retention scheme.

“But rather than pay kitchen workers competitive wages to attract applications, Pizza Express is boosting back-of-house pay by depriving its minimum-wage waiting staff of their hard-earned tips, which form a substantial part of their income.”

Mr Turnbull said the chain should not be “pitting its employees against each other” but should pay kitchen workers a decent wage and allow front-of-house staff 100 per cent of their tips — although, “in an ideal world,” staff would not have to rely on tips.

He said that legislation must include “a statutory code which provides access to remedy for workers who believe tronc decisions are being unfairly manipulated to the benefit of their employer.”

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