Tips 'still being counted towards wages'

Hospitality employers are still abusing the tips system despite Government moves to stop them being counted as part of workers' wages, a leading union claimed today.

Unite said it was "frustrated and disappointed" that employers were continuing to prevent all customers' tips going straight to workers.

A "file of failure" was today sent to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, who announced during the Labour Party conference in September that the tips loophole was being closed.

Unite called on the minister to clear up the tips system in the hospitality sector by taking urgent action, warning that thousands of workers were being affected.

Unite officer Dave Turnbull said: "Unite has uncovered evidence which shows that staff and consumers are no clearer as to where the money left for waiting staff is going and how it is distributed.

"When the Government spoke of the need to clear up the tipping arrangements, they expressed the need for transparency so that customers know where the reward they are leaving is going.

"Unite is appalled that this does not appear to have had any positive impact for waiting staff or consumers. In fact, the union can show that this endeavour to bring transparency to the hospitality sector has resulted in many employers implementing methods to take a larger proportion of money left for staff.

"The industry has totally failed to embrace the appetite amongst workers and consumers for clarity on tipping and service charges.

"Lord Mandelson must act now, once and for all, to show the public and workers that the Government has got to grips with this issue. The public is now sceptical about the ability of the hospitality sector to clean up its act."

Unite said it had uncovered evidence of hourly rates of pay being cut as a direct consequence of the minimum wage regulations being amended, pools for tips being widened to reduce the amount going to each individual, administration fees being raised, management increasing the proportions they take and staff having to pay the price for breakages, customer walkouts and till shortages.

Unite urged Lord Mandelson to meet workers from bars and restaurants to hear directly from them what their experiences are and to discuss the type of action needed.