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Restaurant tipping: Minister wants 'collective agreement' and not new laws

The minister says the agreement would stop restaurants using tips to subsidise wages.

THE GOVERNMENT WILL not support new legislation to cover the payment of tips but says it will considering amending existing laws if a new “collective agreement” does not work.

The new agreement will seek to have restaurants and hotels sign up to a pledge that they will not use the proceeds of tips to subsidise part of an employee’s wage.

It is illegal for companies to use tips as part of an employee’s minimum wage but it is not illegal for them to use tips as part of a stated salary above that.

Independents 4 Change TD Joan Collins raised the issue during Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday and said Tánaiste Simon Coveney had mistakenly said the practice was illegal in a response to her in March.

In response to Collins, Bruton said that the Low Pay Commission had advised that legislation in the area would not be justified and instead advised that a “code of practice on tipping” would be preferable.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show yesterday, Minister for Employment Affairs Regina Doherty said that the Restaurants Association of Ireland and hotel groups are keen to sign up to a collective agreement.

“It was easy to get cooperation around the table from restaurant association representatives, from hoteliers because they all want and are in the main treating their staff as we would want our own family members to be treated,” the minister said.

Doherty added that she hoped the collective agreement would be signed within weeks:

It is a very small number of people that are causing this issue, we will stamp it out though. But I want to improve the industry and to ensure that the employees, who are in the main younger citizens earning a few bob, but also people who are full-time employees supporting families.

“Which is why the employee rights need to be clear and they will be clarified hopefully that we will sign up to in a couple of weeks.”

“If the collective agreement does not work, I will make a change to the Payment of Wages Act to outlaw tips being included in any contracted arrangement,” the minister added.

Sinn Féin has been critical of the government’s approach with Senator Paul Gavan stating that he was left “in bewilderment” by the minister’s comments.

“Minister Doherty and her department appear to think you can have a collective agreement that does not include trade unions,” Gavan said yesterday.

This is a truly bizarre statement to make. The nature of this agreement appears to be limited in scale, without tackling the key issues of a legal right of workers to the tips they earn, and the ongoing scandal of service charges being withheld from workers.

Gavan has tabled his party’s Protection of Employee Tips Bill, which is due before the final stage of the Seanad in June.

If passed into law, the bill would make it illegal for an employer to withhold, deduct, or demand the return of a tip from an employee without a lawful excuse.

The minister said yesterday she was in favour of the spirit of what they bill attempted to achieve but that she opposed it due to “unintended consequences”. / YouTube

In her Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy Collins described restaurants using tips to subsidise wages as ” loophole” and a “disgraceful practice”.

The TD referenced previous concerns she had voiced about the The Ivy restaurant in Dublin.

“On the weekend of 6 April, The Ivy restaurant, possibly on legal advice, changed its policy of applying a service charge to tables or five or more to include all tables,” Collins said.

In a statement in March, The Ivy said: “100% of credit card tips are shared amongst the entire 150 staff members (excluding management)”.

“A gratuity per hour is paid to every staff member in addition to their contractual hourly wage and is guaranteed by the company in that any shortfall, regardless of whether any tips are paid by patrons, will be made up by the company,” the statement read.

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