John Williams, Unite union hospitality and Socialist Party member
“Workers at some Miller and Carter restaurants have been told that they must ‘tip-out’ up to 2% of sales to the kitchen”, according to Unite the Union. “Waiters who served £3,000 of food and drink that night would have to find £60. If they only made £45, [in tips] then they’re in debt, with some losing £300+ per month in lost income”.
This deeply unfair system has quite rightly been met with anger and disappointment from workers. So campaigners from Unite the Union hospitality have taken part in a national day of action at various Miller and Carter branches.
One staff member told The Guardian: “On a Monday lunch you can earn zero [in tips and service charge] and be in debt to the company.”
Bryan Simpson, a Unite hospitality national organiser said: “This is an undemocratic and unworkable policy, which is designed to force low-paid waiters to make up for the failure of the company to pay their kitchen, bar and junior management enough.”
In Cardiff, the local trades union council, as well as Socialist Party members, took part in the action, giving leaflets to every customer who left and entered the venue, with one man saying they were going to complain to the managers there!
Lots of passersby and a few diners were interested in the issue and stopped to discuss it, including union members. The solidarity from complete strangers was heartwarming to see.
A local Miller and Carter worker told us: “Thank you for organising the protest outside M&C. It really created waves throughout upper management, and fingers crossed has really helped our case.”
The union is adamant that this issue does not become a competition between front-of-house and kitchen staff, which is absolutely correct. The bosses are banking on divide and rule to cut across the campaign.
What we need to see is a democratic fair tips committee to be elected at every restaurant, to decide a fair system where no one loses out, without interference from the bosses. Tips are not the wages or a guaranteed form of income. The trade unions should struggle for a minimum wage of at least £15 an hour, that rises with inflation. Youth rates should be abolished too. And workers should get organised to win more.
As previously reported in the Socialist, the workers at the Cardiff Glee Club won their union recognition battle (see ‘Hospitality workers fighting back’ at socialistparty.org.uk). We are hoping to get a hospitality group going inside the Cardiff branch of Unite the Union – the result of constant campaigning by local trade unionists in hospitality over 18 months.
And now, with Brewdog rolling back on their ‘living wage’ policy, future campaigns and struggles within hospitality are definitely in the pipeline.
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