Former Ivy worker details process of tip theft at luxury restaurant

unite-white-out-of-redJulia Marciniak joins Brendan Ogle, Joan Collins and Cieran Perry at press conference to support tips legislation

June 18th: A press conference organised by Joan Collins TD this morning (Tuesday) heard former Ivy worker and Unite member Julia Marciniak explain how the luxury restaurant on Dublin’s Dawson Street withheld tips from low-paid workers on the Minimum Wage.  The event was held in support of Senator Paul Gavan’s National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips) Bill 2017, which last week passed the Seanad.

“My basic pay was the Minimum Wage.  However, my contract stipulated slightly more per hour.  On our first pay day, staff were shocked not to receive any credit card tips.  We were told that service charges would be pooled into a so-called ‘TRONC’ to make up the difference between the Minimum Wage and the Contracted Wage, and that credit card tips would be paid the following month after six weeks’ working.  Card tips were referred to as a bonus – but actually they would have meant the difference between poverty pay and survival pay.  When we raised concerns about the process we were promised that we would retain an increased share of credit card tips, would be paid fortnightly instead of monthly, and that tip distribution would be monthly.

“Instead, in November, we received no tips (bonus) at all. Instead we got a letter accusing us of ‘greed’.  In December, we then met with the Ivy’s London-based HR manager who told us that 100% of our card tips went towards TRONC to pay our wages, with the company retaining the excess after wages had been paid.   Given that ‘The Ivy’ was averaging around €3,000 per day in card tips, the excess was very substantial”, Ms Marciniak said.

Joan Collins TD, who has raised the matter repeatedly in the Dail, said:

“When Julia and her colleagues approached me in January I was stunned at their treatment. Here was a multi-million Euro restaurant in a prime location just yards from the Dail, taking the tips intended which customers intended to workers. And, ultimately, taking all of them. I have raised this matter on the floor of the house several times and I am glad that Minister O’Doherty has announced some changes to legislation that we have called for. But we need to go further now and address all of these issues including service charges. It’s about decency”, Deputy Collins said.

Brendan Ogle is Unite Senior Officer and said:

“Some rogue restaurants have been relying on a legal loophole to use workers’ tips to pay wages.  Unite first called for legislation to close this loophole back in April. Since then, thanks to the determination of the workers themselves and the campaign mounted by activists such as those in Communities Against Low Pay, there has been some movement on this issue and last week Unite welcomed Minister Regina Doherty’s promise to introduce legislation.  In the meantime, however, the Government should put partisan differences to one side and support Senator Paul Gavan’s Bill.

“In hospitality as elsewhere, sharp employment practices are not only bad for workers, but also bad for the economy as a whole”, Mr Ogle said.

Representing Communities Against Low Pay, which has held several demonstrations outside The Ivy to alert customers to the tip theft taking place inside, Cllr Cieran Perry said:

“Poverty pay is rife in the hospitality sector, and workers rely on tips to survive.  The grassroots campaign waged by Communities Against Low Pay has kept this issue on the political and media agenda, and has ensured that customers know exactly what’s on the menu at The Ivy.   The issue of tip theft comes down to simple greed:  In an industry where precarious work and low pay is the norm, workers should not have to subsidise their low wages with the tips they have earned”.

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