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TGI Friday’s workers staged a noisy protest in London yesterday as their union announced further ballots for strike action against exploitative tipping practices.
The trade unionists, who belong to Unite, staged a busy lunchtime demonstration at the US chain's Haymarket restaurant in Piccadilly to raise public awareness of the forthcoming strikes.
Over the past few weeks, strikes at TGI Friday’s branches at Milton Keynes and Covent Garden, London, have been announced.
Furious workers at London’s Haymarket branch and in Manchester are now to vote on strike proposals, with several more ballots to be announced over the coming weeks.
The strikes would be the first to hit the restaurant chain, which opened its first branch in Britain in 1986.
In January, front-of-house staff were given 48 hours notice that 40 per cent of the tips they receive would be redistributed to kitchen staff, using a digital counting system, in order to top up the poverty pay of their food-preparation colleagues.
Senior management claimed that the policy was needed to address a growing problem of kitchen staff retention.
However, workers have opposed this as a divide-and-rule tactic and do not understand why they should face a real-terms pay cut for management’s inability to keep staff.
Last month, the government named TGI Friday’s as one of Britain’s three worst employers for failing to ensure payment of the legal minimum wage.
Front-of-house workers, overwhelmingly women, accuse management of inflaming the situation, refusing to hear collective grievances against the new tipping scheme and even rejecting an approach by conciliation service Acas to settle the dispute.
There was no consultation on the management decision.
Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull believes that the workers backing strike action are part of a whole generation of people tired of moving from job to job with the same poor pay and zero-hours contracts.
He told the Star: “Usually, when you ask people to join a union, they ask you: ‘I don’t have to go on strike, do I?’
“This situation has been completely different. Workers have been telling other workers: ‘Join the union if you want to go on strike’.”
Mr Turnbull believes that many workers have been inspired by the example of the strikes organised by the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union at McDonald’s.
Staff from the fast-food chain in Manchester who have been suspended from work for organising a strike on May 1 joined yesterday’s demonstration to condemn the TGI Friday policy as “unforgivable” and urged workers to “keep on fighting.”
Alex, a cocktail bartender and Unite member in south London who attended the protest, told the Star it was “important to show real support for staff who getting treated really badly.
“The only way to stop these people is by striking.
“The TGI Friday workers are an inspiration and are on the sharp edge of the struggle against these despicable practices in our industry.”
TGI Friday was not available for comment, but it has previously denied reports that it uses tips to top up low wages.
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