Dave Turnbull

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  • Dave Turnbull

    My name’s Dave Turnbull, I’m a Regional Officer with responsibility for the hospitality sector within Unite the union. (http://www.unitetheunion.org)

    At the moment, unfortunately, it’s perfectly legal for restaurants to keep some or even all of the money if customers tip on card.

    We’re campaigning to make this illegal though. So the best thing you can do is join the campaign! If you’re not a member of the union already, you can find out more here and get involved by emailing dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org

    We’ve had some success with this in the past.

    We had a campaign in 2016 against the 8% admin fee that Pizza Express were charging. We kicked that off on National Waiters Day last year, in May, and used the same tactics as we had used on the tips / minimum wage issue back in 2009. More restaurants were exposed for doing this and again there was huge media interest and public outcry. Giraffe were the first to break rank and abolish the admin fee. Most other brand name restaurant chains followed, culminating in a climbdown by Pizza Express.

    So because of that campaign, thousands of waiters got an increase in their income by 8% to 10% of the tips!

    However, despite this victory it is still possible for employers to dip into your tips if they come from a credit card or service charge on the menu.

    Here’s why.

    There was quite a high profile case on this against the Paradiso & Inferno Restaurant in Strand and it ended up in the European Court of Human Rights. The decision in that case had a huge impact because what they said was, ‘if the customer leaves a tip on the credit card or pays a service charge on the menu, that money belongs to the employer. It’s only once the employer decides it will allocate some or all of that money to the staff, that it creates an obligation to pass that money on.’ Even then they can change the amount by making clear from the outset that it is non-contractual.

    They do this by establishing what is called a Tronc scheme governed by what is known as the HMRC E24 Guidance. This says that if the Tronc is genuinely independent neither the employer or the employee pay National Insurance on tips or service charge paid into your wages. When employers were charging an admin fee it essentially meant that the bulk of both workers and employers saving was going back into the company pocket.

    Now that many employers have abandoned admin fees it may seem like a good idea not to pay National Insurance on your tips and service charge – but doing that can have an impact on pensions, holiday pay, redundancy and other elements based on a weeks pay.

    Also it is not always guaranteed that your Tronc will be genuinely independent from your employers influence, especially if they have appointed an external consultant paid by them to run the Tronc.

    For this reason Unite has reached an agreement with the ALMR (the main employers association representing restaurant and pub chains) to establish a code and set of rules to ensure genuine
    Independence, Transparency, Engagement and Allocation.

    If you have concerns about how the Tronc is being run in your workplace please contact

  • in reply to: Can they count tips towards minimum wage? #668

    Dave Turnbull

    My name’s Dave Turnbull, I’m a Regional Officer with responsibility for the hospitality sector within Unite the union. (http://www.unitetheunion.org)

    It’s completely illegal for restaurants to top up your minimum wage with tips.

    I know it’s illegal because we helped make it illegal! We campaigned for that. It was one of our biggest successes.

    The Minimum Wage Act says it’s illegal for any employer to use tips, service charge, or gratuities to pay the minimum wage. They actually used about six different descriptions to make sure that an employer couldn’t get round it by calling tips something different!

    So at the moment, for example, (2017) the minimum wage is £7.50 for over 25’s, so the employer has to pay you that £7.50 and give the staff their tips on top of it.

    This is the story of how we won that campaign.

    When we started, the Minimum Wage had just been brought in, and it explicitly said employers were allowed to use tips to pay it.

    That used to happen all the time. Employers took maximum advantage of this small loophole. Some places paid £0.50 an hour, then said it was OK because staff got their minimum wage topped up from tips.

    Because it was written into law, everybody told us we weren’t going to succeed in getting that changed. Even the TUC and a lot of Labour MPs.

    When we started, it was me and five other people. All from four different restaurants – all members of the union. This issue had been coming up time and time again, so I called a meeting and just said, “look, let’s talk about this and see what we can do.”

    We decided to talk to other waiting staff, and get them to feed us information. We conducted a survey, drew up lists of which employers were doing this or finding other ways to dip into staff tips.” I then spoke to a media department. We started putting out press releases.

    There was just one MP who gave us a little bit of encouragement. He’d asked a question about it in the Commons. We took half a dozen waiters to meet him and he just said in a quite broad Scottish accent, “I’ve done what I can do. You all had better get out on the street and make a lot of bloody noise about this.”

    So that’s what we started to do. To start with it was just the six of us in the West End of London, going in to restaurants and talking to staff. But we recruited loads of members and started to have some really well attended meetings.

    We called a day of protest outside a number of restaurant chains we had identified as acting unethically when it came to tips.

    I had given advice to all the members participating in the protests that if they were interviewed by the media about the campaign, they shouldn’t mention who they work for. They should just say they’re a waiter from a major restaurant chain.
    But one member of staff at Pizza Express did mention he worked for Pizza Express and got sacked. And now there was a human interest story, because everybody started asking, ‘why would Pizza Express sack somebody talking about their tips?’
    We made his dismissal one of the big issues.

    We started regular protests outside Pizza Express, saying ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide, why did you sack this guy?’

    This achieved more media coverage and created a public awareness. Customers started asking at restaurants ‘what happens to your tips? Do you use them to pay the minimum wage?’

    We ran a number of collective grievances where staff supported by the union challenged employers about the way their tips were being shared out.

    Companies started to give their staff scripts about what to say. They said “if customers ask you what is happening to the tips, this is what you’ve got to say. And if you deviate from it and we find out, you’re gonna be up for discipline.”
    We started telling journalists about that, and they started asking companies. More bad practice was exposed. The pressure just built and built.

    We then put a call out to restaurants “if you commit to pay the minimum wage without using tips to top them up, we’ll give you a Fair Tips sticker to put in your window and customer will see that you are an ethical employer”. We launched this at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester and loads of employers in the city took it up.

    Then the Daily Mirror took it up and they sponsored the sticker, and we got TGI Fridays and Pizza Hut to sign up and put stickers in all their windows.

    So then things started rolling…

    People who weren’t willing to listen to us before started listening because new stories about tipping abuse were appearing the media almost every day.

    And thanks to that campaign, in the end the Labour government changed the law and closed the loophole in the minimum wage law.

    So now it’s illegal for a restaurant to top up wages to the minimum wage with tips.
    It happened because six waiters and waitresses decided enough was enough and had the courage to talk to their colleagues, building momentum for something which ultimately changed the law of the land.

    The lesson here is that if stuff like this is happening to you, don’t try to do something about it by yourself. You’ve got to turn this into a collective issue.

    The first step is to talk to others in the same position.

    The simple principle we work on is Meet – Talk – Act – Win.

    Try to find five people who are being affected by the issue. Sit down and talk to them about it. Agree what action you need to take. Act on them. Set out to win
    If you’re members of Unite then talk your local office, get in contact with your local branch and ask to meet someone to discuss developing an organising plan around your issue.

    The Restaurant and Bar Workers Branch has some good guidance on the website. Go to the page marked The Door – http://www.restaurantworkers.co.uk

    If you want any more advice on this, email me at dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Dave Turnbull.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Dave Turnbull.
  • in reply to: Management keep the tips #662

    Dave Turnbull

    My name’s Dave Turnbull, I’m a Regional Officer with responsibility for the hospitality sector within Unite the union. (http://www.unitetheunion.org)

    It depends who the customer gives the tip to.

    If it’s a cash tip that’s given to you personally, it belongs to you. The management shouldn’t keep it.

    But they could have house rule which require staff to pool tips centrally in order to share with back of house staff. It’s not against the law for them to do this.

    So if the tips go into a tip jar, for example, management could exert some control over what they want to do with them. The same applies if the management charge a service charge.

    I’ve written more about this here.

    We’re campaigning to change the law so that restaurants have to share tips with staff, no matter how they’re given.

    If you want to get involved, go here or email me on dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Dave Turnbull.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Dave Turnbull.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Dave Turnbull.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Asher.
  • in reply to: Overwork – tired #660

    Dave Turnbull

    My name’s Dave Turnbull, I’m a Regional Officer with responsibility for the hospitality sector within Unite the union. (http://www.unitetheunion.org)

    We represent workers in restaurants and hotels. It’s a real ‘work until you drop’, long hours culture.

    But the law is clear about this. If you work in a kitchen or in hospitality, it’s illegal for an employer to make you work more than 48 hours a week on average over a 17 week period.

    So if the place where you work makes you work more than that, they’re breaking the law.

    Unfortunately, most employers in the hospitality industry get round these rules.

    The law says that you can sign an agreement to opt out of the rules, which then allows you to work longer. The underhand way of getting you to agree this without realising is to put something in the contract to say you can work more than 48 hours.

    So if you’re in hospitality and you go back to your contract and have a look, there’s a good chance that when you signed the contract, you agreed to work more than 48 hours without knowing it. If you’ve also signed a salary based contract it could mean you are working lots of extra hours for free.

    The law says you can give written notice to opt back in – so it may be in your interest to do so.

    If that has happened to you, if you work in a kitchen, a hotel, a restaurant or anything in the hospitality industry, get in touch with Unite and we’ll see if we can help you.

    You can find out more here or email me on dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org.

    Another thing you can do is – if you work very long hours but you’re not paid by the hour, keep track of your hours and check your pay works out to be at least the minimum wage.

    If it’s not, we might be able to help you get paid at least the minimum wage for every single hour you work.

    I’ve written more about this here.

    In hospitality, overwork is a big issue that we’ve got to deal with.

    We have publicised the case of Nathan Laity. It was terrible. He was a chef at the Tate Modern. He worked 27 consecutive 14-hour shifts, got blood poisoning from an untreated case of tonsillitis, and died in his sleep. The coroner’s verdict was that his body’s defences had just broken down in exhaustion. He was only 23. He was quite a talented chef and obviously very keen to prove himself.

    But overwork is common. We did a survey of 87 people working in pubs, restaurants and hotels. 44 per cent say they worked between 48 and 60 hours a week, 79 per cent said that they‘d had an accident or near miss due to fatigue, and 69 per cent reported that their hours impacted their health.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Dave Turnbull.
  • in reply to: Too much unpaid overtime #657

    Dave Turnbull

    My name’s Dave Turnbull, I’m a Regional Officer with responsibility for the hospitality sector within Unite the union. (http://www.unitetheunion.org)

    In the hospitality industry there’s a real ‘work till you drop’ culture and this happens a lot: a lot of people are being paid on a monthly salary but working extra hours so in the end they’re earning less than the minimum wage per hour.

    For example, there was a case with Michel Roux, the chef at Le Gavroche in London.
    He put the chefs on a salary rather than an hourly rate and they ended up working 50-60 hours a week. When we sat down and actually work out what that means, they’d been underpaid the minimum wage.

    We think this is actually a huge can of worms and a lot of restaurants and hotels have adopted this as part of their business model. It can potentially really damage your health.

    But the Union can help.

    First you have to keep accurate information about your start and finish times.

    Then we sit down with you and work out the calculation.

    Then we talk to others to find more people this has happened to. When you have about five people, we draft a letter and get everyone affected to sign it.

    They then submit it to the employer at a meeting.

    You’ve got the legal right to have a union representative in attendance at that meeting even if your employer is anti-union or doesn’t recognise the union. They can’t stop you from bringing a union rep.

    That means from the outset we’re involved.

    And if you’ve done the calculation, you can be pretty confident that there’s won’t be any way out for the employer other than to pay. Which is why Michel Roux coughed up very quickly when it was exposed. There have been a few of these cases, including one Australian celebrity chef who’s been caught doing the same thing. He had to cough up. So it works.

    We don’t recommend anyone puts in a grievance individually. If you’re going to put in a grievance, we can’t guarantee you how your employers will react. So it’s best to join the union so we can support you, draft the letter and so on.

    If you think you have a pay issue contact dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Dave Turnbull.
  • in reply to: Manager calculating hours wrong? #656

    Dave Turnbull

    My name’s Dave Turnbull, I’m a Regional Officer with responsibility for the hospitality sector within Unite the union. (http://www.unitetheunion.org)

    Firstly, you obviously need to make sure that if you’re required to clock in and out, you do so. If there’s a signing in and out notebook, you have to sign in and out.

    A lot of hotels now have clocking in machines or time system where your fingerprint is stored.

    Second, you’re allowed to ask for access to that information. You have the right to do that in law.

    You can then use this as evidence to show the number of hours you’ve worked. If your pay before tax based on the hours worked works out as less than the hourly rate in your contract you have evidence to challenge your employer.

    That said, it’s always a good idea for you to keep your own records. Then if there’s an issue you can say, “this is my record, my times. I believe I’ve kept an accurate record. You now show me your clocking in information if you believe I’m wrong.”

    You can backdate claims for unlawful deductions for 18 months.

    If you think you have a pay issue contact me at dave.turnbull@unitetheunion.org

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Dave Turnbull.
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