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TGI Fridays staff stage walkout in the UK over tips dispute, threaten ‘summer of disruption’

  • Employees at two TGI Fridays restaurants in the U.K. held a 24 hour walk-out Friday over a dispute on tips and wages, with more branches set to follow suit.
  • Union representatives for workers at the American diner chain have threatened a "summer of disruption" if its needs are not met.
  • The anger stems from a policy introduced by the chain in February that redistributes tips from waiters to kitchen staff.
Pedestrians walk past a T.G.I. Friday's in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Pedestrians walk past a T.G.I. Friday's in New York.

Employees at two TGI Fridays restaurants in the U.K. held a 24 hour walkout Friday over a dispute on tips and wages, with more branches set to follow suit.

Union representatives for workers at the American diner chain have threatened a "summer of disruption" if its needs are not met.

The anger stems from a policy introduced by the chain in February that redistributes tips from waiters to kitchen staff, effectively allowing a raise for back-of-house staff while incurring no costs on the company itself. Unite, the U.K.'s largest union, said that the change would cost TGI Fridays' waiters, most of whom are on minimum wage, up to £250 ($286) a month in lost income.

TGI Fridays denied accusations that it was paying staff unfairly. The company plans to keep its restaurants open during the walkout, according to a TGI Fridays spokesman, who said that it was working with its employees to find a solution.

"We believe all our team members should be — and are — treated and paid fairly," the spokesman said.

The 24-hour strike is underway in the restaurant's Milton Keynes and Covent Garden branches, with locations in Manchester's Trafford Centre and London's Haymarket Piccadilly to go on strike next week.

'So greedy'

"Our members have sent a very clear message that they will not roll over and be bullied into having their tips taken, without any consultation and with just two days' notice," Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull said in a press statement.

"This isn't about minimum wage servers not wanting to share with their kitchen colleagues. It's about a company whose shareholders have gotten so greedy that they no longer want to pay their hardworking staff anything above the bare minimum."

"We won't back down, but we are ready to talk," Turnbull added.

TGI Fridays in March was fined for failing to pay its staff the U.K. minimum wage, along with more than 40 other hospitality businesses. Consumer spending on casual dining has waned in recent years, putting companies under pressure to cut costs.

The American casual dining chain, which serves "American classics" like barbecue wings and burgers as well as a range of alcoholic beverages, operates more than 900 restaurants in some 60 countries. As a franchise operation, franchisees own most of the outlets.