Two people have been arrested after protests at one of London’s most iconic department stores Harrods, following claims management kept 75 per cent of tips left for waiting staff working in the store’s cafes and restaurants.
A smoke bomb was allegedly discharged and roads in the Knightsbridge area of central London were blocked during the action on Saturday afternoon, demonstrators also held banners and chanted demands for a fairer deal from the iconic London store.
Dozens of hospitality staff joined the demonstration, which was organised by the United Voices of the World (UVW) union.
Harrods had pledged to improve tips for its catering workers after the union threatened strike action, however workers are demanding the full 100 per cent share of diners’ tips.
UVW’s general secretary, Petros Elia, said Harrods was keeping up to £2.5m a year in tips from its hospitality staff, which, if accurate is the equivalent to the store depriving each of its catering staff of up to £5,000 a year.
A former Harrods waitress, who did not wish to be named, told a national newspaper the practice dated back to at least 2011.
“It was an awful place to work,” she said. “Putting a ‘discretionary’ service charge on stopped customers giving us cash tips, and we knew we weren’t getting anywhere near the full 12.5 per cent.
A Harrods spokeswoman said: “Harrods currently employs over 450 employees in its 16 restaurants, all of whom are paid fairly and above national living wage.
“Like many businesses in the hospitality sector, Harrods operates a Tronc system on behalf of its restaurant employees. The Tronc system manages the distribution of the service charge only. Petros Elias, general secretary of the UVW union, said: “The lack of transparency in the system gives Harrods huge power over its staff. Catering wages are barely enough to survive on in London, and waiters in particular depend heavily on tips just to get by.”