TGIs and Wetherspoon workers join other hospitality staff in strike

TGI Fridays. Picture: File/contributed
TGI Fridays. Picture: File/contributed
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Hospitality workers, couriers and cab drivers will join a day of action on Thursday, including strikes, in separate disputes over pay and union recognition.

Unions say staff from several branches of McDonald’s and TGI Fridays restaurants and two Wetherspoon pubs in, as well as some Uber Eats and Deliveroo couriers and Uber drivers will take industrial action and take part in demonstrations.

A rally will be held in London and action take place in cities including Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Newcastle, Plymouth and Southampton.

The day of action is being organised by War On Want, Unite and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union.

Unite members at TGI Fridays restaurants in Milton Keynes and two in London will stage their eighth walkout as part of a long-running dispute over a change in tips policy they say has left waiting staff £250 a month worse off.

READ MORE: Gregor Gall: Unions could become extinct unless they start winning strikes

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said hospitality workers were “finding their voice”, adding: “These workers have had enough of low pay and insecure work.

“They are leading a growing movement against low pay and insecure work in the hospitality sector and across the gig economy.”

The McDonald’s, TGI Fridays and Wetherspoons workers are demanding better working conditions across the hospitality sector, pay of £10 an hour, and an end to “precarious” contracts.

Fast food workers in the United States are also on strike this week over pay.

A spokesman for TGI Fridays said: “Our team members are a part of our Fridays family. We believe they should be, and are, treated and paid fairly.

“Out of a workforce of over 5,500 team members, less than 1% are involved in this action”.

READ MORE: Delivery drivers to join strikes over pay

An Uber Eats spokesman said: “In response to feedback from couriers we’ve made some changes to our payment structure in London, which brings it into line with other cities.

“The changes will help increase earnings during busy mealtimes and, as we transition to the new system, we’re introducing minimum payment guarantees of £9-11 an hour.

“Making improvements in response to courier feedback is a top priority, such as the sickness, injury, maternity and paternity protections we recently introduced. Our door is always open for individual couriers to speak to us about any issues they’re having.”

Wetherspoon said it had increased pay rates by £20 million in the year ended July 2018, and that they would increase by a further £27 million this year.

Chairman Tim Martin said: “Wetherspoon intends to increase pay in real terms in most years, subject to economic conditions, as we have tried to do in the past.

“Everyone in the pub and restaurant industry works very hard and the late and early hours are extremely demanding.

“The people who work in the business are our most valuable asset.

“It is understandable that there is pressure on pay with low unemployment and a housing shortage.

“However, bonuses, free shares and other benefits should be taken into account in assessing pay.

“Wetherspoon paid total taxes last year of £729 million - nearly one thousandth of all government income. This equates to an average of £825,000 of taxes per pub.

“I don’t think it would benefit employees overall if, as some suggest, Wetherspoon ended bonuses, free shares and other benefits, and increased the basic rate of pay.

“It’s easy to be cynical about business, but companies like McDonalds, TGI Fridays and thousands of other individuals and businesses make a big contribution to the economy, and provide valuable work and experience for many people.”

A McDonalds spokesman said: “All restaurants remain open as usual today despite frustrating attempts by protestors at a handful of locations to impact our customers, and our restaurant teams.

“This is the third attempt at action; and according to our records none of our people are on strike today. Any suggestion this activity is widespread and growing is not accurate – fewer restaurants, fewer employees involved and less support for the union from our people.

“This is against a backdrop of more people choosing to join our business, with over 1,700 new employees since May (the last attempted industrial action).

“We will also continue to offer people a choice between fixed and flexible contracts; as our people have told us they want to make the decision for themselves and choose what works for them. Since offering the choice to our people, 80% have made the decision to stay on a flexible contract.”

Steve Garelick, of the GMB union, said: “The continued attacks made on workers from rate reduction without consultation to gratuities being hived off show that there is nothing wholesome in the service and gig economy sector.”