Unite meets Tanaiste to discuss proposed tips legislation

Tip theft cheats workers and customers

Robust legislation would increase public confidence in sector

Trade union Unite, which represents workers in the hospitality sector, yesterday (Monday) met with the Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar to discuss the union’s concerns surrounding the proposed tips legislation.  Unite has been campaigning against the widespread practice of ‘tip theft’ which sees employers appropriate workers’ tips to meet general business running costs, including wages.  The meeting, which Unite described as constructive, was attended by Unite Hospitality and Tourism Coordinator Julia Marciniak and the union’s Hospitality Branch Secretary Karen Doyle. 

During the hour-long meeting, Unite stressed to the Tanaiste and his officials that the Government now had an opportunity to ring-fence tips for the benefit of workers, and that robust legislation would increase public confidence in the sector as it prepares to emerge from the pandemic.

Commenting, Julia Marciniak said: “The Government’s proposed tips legislation offers an opportunity to address a long-standing injustice which has deprived workers of the tips left by customers.  The hospitality sector is dominated by young, female and migrant workers, most of whom are low-paid and many of whom are on precarious contracts.  These workers depend on the tips left by customers for their economic survival, and the focus of any legislation must be to ensure that workers receive these tips.

“Tips are clearly intended by customers as gifts to their servers, and must be treated as such in all aspects.

“During the meeting, Unite also took the opportunity to highlight the need to provide workers in the sector – including many migrant workers for whom English is not their first language – with comprehensive and easily accessible information on their rights in order to prevent abuses”.

Karen Doyle added:  “Research conducted by Unite, as well as research by Dr Deirdre Curran in NUIG, has detailed the extent of abuses in the hospitality sector.  Tip theft is just one aspect of those abuses, and the Government now has an opportunity to address it by clearly defining tips as gifts given by the customer to their server.  This would not only ensure that employers cannot appropriate their workers’ tips to meet general running costs, but would also ensure that tips are treated as gifts for tax purposes. 

Julia Marciniak concluded: “Tip theft cheats both the workers and the customers on whom the hospitality sector depends. Robust tips legislation would increase public confidence in the hospitality sector as they emerge from the pandemic.  Unite hopes that yesterday’s constructive meeting with the Tanaiste and his officials will lay the foundations for further positive engagement following publication of the legislation”.

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