Hospitality workers staging day of action over pay

Hospitality workers, couriers and cab drivers have launched a day of action including strikes in separate disputes over pay and union recognition.

Staff from several branches of McDonald’s and TGI Fridays restaurants, mainly in London, and two Wetherspoon pubs in Brighton, as well as some Uber Eats and Deliveroo couriers and Uber drivers are taking industrial action and joining demonstrations.

Union leaders and Labour politicians voiced support for the action, joining a rally in London.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “I am giving my support to the striking workers in Wetherspoons, TGI Fridays and McDonald’s today. These are workers that have been ignored by their employers and are simply asking for a wage they can live on and the same basic rights at work we should all be entitled to.

“Under a Labour government, we will guarantee that all workers will have their rights at work protected from day one, earn a living wage of £10 per hour, and that those on strike would be entitled to a share in the ownership of the companies they work for.”

Action is also taking 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.

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 US 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.”

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 meal times 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 ending in July, and 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 1,000th 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.”

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.”

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