COFFEE chain Starbucks was yesterday hit by protests at branches across the UK over its tax arrangements, despite announcing changes to its payments.
The US-owned company said it expects to pay around £10 million in UK corporation tax for each of the next two years, following the revelation that it paid just £8.6m in 14 years of trading in Britain and nothing in the past three years.
Activist group UK Uncut carried out more than 40 demonstrations across the country, from Aberdeen to Cornwall, “transforming” Starbucks stores into refuges, creches and homeless shelters.
The organisation said the number of protests had increased since Starbucks made its announcement.
One store in Vigo Street in central London was occupied by protesters at 12pm and then temporarily closed.
Dozens of activists chanted and waved placards and banners outside, shutting off the street to traffic under the gaze of the police.
The store was transformed into a domestic violence refuge as the protest sought to highlight the “disproportionate” effect that the coalition’s cuts to the public sector are having on women. Lisa Stewart, a 30-year-old UK Uncut activist, said: “Women are bearing the brunt of these cuts, and if they (the government) made tax-dodgers like Starbucks pay, that would bring in £25 billion a year.
“Think of all the spending cuts that we could cover with that. Today we are standing up for the women’s services we refuse to see destroyed.”
Stewart said the reaction from customers in the store had been positive, adding: “There is lots of anger out there and people realise they are being lied to.”
Anna Walker, an activist who took part in a sit-in at a Starbucks in Conduit Street, central London, said: “We demand that the government takes urgent, radical action on tax avoidance rather than cutting the welfare state, childcare benefits, maternity benefits and housing benefits while dismantling the NHS.
“These cuts are having a massive, devastating impact on women’s lives today.”
Walker said 100 people had taken part in the Conduit Street action, which involved activists trying to transform the store into a creche.
“Unfortunately, the police did walk in and say everybody was going to be arrested if they didn’t leave after only five minutes, so we weren’t able to set up our creche,” she said.
UK Uncut described yesterday’s protests as its biggest ever national day of action.