Tips scandal: Unite protest targets STK at ME London Hotel

By Liam Garrahan

- Last updated on GMT

Tips scandal: Unite protest targets STK at ME London Hotel

Related tags Service charge Minimum wage

Trade union Unite staged a protest against STK London at its ME London Hotel on Friday, amidst claims that its 15 per cent service charge is being used to increase the salaries of four senior managers by as much as £50k a year each.

The ‘Fair Tips’ protest comes as Unite launches a campaign against the Spanish-based owners of the ME London hotel, Melia Hotels International, over its refusal to recognise Unite as a trade union in breach of its own globally-signed agreements.

The trade union accuses the hotel’s management of keeping staff and customers ‘in the dark’ over its refusal to provide details of the company tronc scheme – a system used to distribute tips and money from the service charge to employees.

In a statement, Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy, said: “We think the public will be very interested to know why these four senior managers declared that they were earning the National Minimum Wage of just £6.50 an hour back in February 2015 – the same as waiters and bussers – when restaurant managers in London are believed to earn as much as £60,000 a year.

“Restaurants and bars were banned from using tips to top up staff wages to the legal national minimum back in 2009, but that clearly hasn’t stopped STK from finding a nifty loophole to subsidise managers’ wages above and beyond the national minimum wage. 

“We believe that customers will be outraged to learn that money from the service charge which they have paid in good faith maybe being used as a monthly bonus to boost bosses’ wages by tens of thousands of pounds a year each, rather than going to waiting and kitchen staff.

“It is the ultimate kick in the teeth for customers and staff alike, if restaurants are allowed to dip into tips and the service charge without a shred of transparency of how the money is being used or who is benefiting from it. If managers are not prepared to reveal what portion of the service charge and tips they are pocketing, then they should leave them alone.

“We certainly hope that the government’s response to its investigation into abuse of tipping, launched in the wake of last summer’s tips scandal, addresses these very serious transparency concerns. The business secretary, Sajid Javid now needs to speed up the investigation and deliver his report.

“Melia Hotels has a global agreement respecting trade union rights and management at the ME London Hotel should be keeping up company standards and acting ethically, instead they have been acting despicably.

“The good news is that our union is growing, chefs and waiting staff are uniting to work out their own fair tipping allocation policy.”

Speaking to the London Evening Standard​, Guillaume Marly, general manager at ME London, said: “ME London follows standard hospitality industry practice through the use of the tronc system. We are currently reviewing the service charge policy and have made great progress in discussions with our employees and the union, to ensure it reflects staff and customers’ views.”

BigHospitality has contacted The ONE Group - owner of STK London - for further comment.

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