TGI Fridays staff to hold UK’s first strike over tips

Workers at TGI Fridays are to stage the UK’s first strike over tips after ballots at two branches of the restaurant chain backed industrial action.

TGI Fridays outlets in Milton Keynes and Covent Garden face walkouts on 18 May in protest at a new policy that hands 40% of service charge payments paid on credit and debit cards to back-of-house employees, including kitchen staff.

The waiting staff, all members of the Unite trade union, voted unanimously for action against the changes that they say could cost them up to £250 a month in lost earnings.

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TGI Fridays potentially faces a summer of disruption with strike ballots under way at four more restaurants, including at the Trafford Centre in Manchester and the Gateshead Metrocentre in Newcastle.

Dave Turnbull, a regional officer at Unite, said: “TGI’s has been sent a loud message that our members will not be bullied and shoved into pay poverty. If TGI’s wants to look at how it can reward kitchen staff, then work with us on a fair solution – not implement an overnight wage grab where Peter has been robbed to pay Paul.”

The potential strike action comes as the government faces renewed pressure to crack down on restaurants that ask waiters to hand over some or all of their tips.

A spokesperson for the UK arm of TGI Fridays, which is owned by a US private equity firm, said: “Our team members are a part of our Fridays family, and we care about them. We believe all our team members should be – and are – treated and paid fairly. Despite this, a small number at Milton Keynes Stadium and Covent Garden have voted to strike. We are listening to them and are collectively working to find a resolution. In the meantime, we will be doing all we can to ensure our guests receive the usual great dining experience and that the restaurant remains open as normal.”

The dispute at TGI Fridays comes as UK McDonald’s workers take action over zero-hours contracts and working conditions. Staff from branches in Manchester and Watford are joining colleagues in Crayford and Cambridge as part of the “McStrike” as workers demand a minimum £10-an-hour living wage.

Members of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union are also asking for a choice of fixed-hour contracts, the end of unequal pay for young workers, and union recognition.