BOSSES at a top hotel allegedly sacked one of their waiters after finding a “fair tips” leaflet in his locker, the union Unite said yesterday.
Trade unionists and supporters of Robert Czegely held a protest last night outside the five-star STK restaurant in central London’s plush Melia ME Hotel, which charges well over £1,000 a night for one of its suites, as he prepared for an employment tribunal hearing tomorrow, after Unite lodged the claim.
Unite accused Melia bosses of “heavy-handed, anti-union bias” and victimising Mr Czegely for organising workers against management’s 15 per cent levy on tips.
In a statement issued to the Star, Mr Czegely said: “I believe I’ve been victimised for speaking out about something all the staff felt to be unfair and for campaigning for the union to be recognised.
“I hope someone at a more senior level in the company will look seriously at what has been going on at STK and the ME London Hotel and make the correct decisions to resolve this.”
The STK employee of two years added: “Personally, I feel badly let down by the way I’ve been treated.
“As anyone who has worked in hospitality knows, it’s hard work but also immensely rewarding.
“I like my job, I’m good at it too.”
It was reported in November that while every member of the restaurant’s staff lived on a basic wage, managers had their salaries boosted to around £50,000 by service charges.
Mr Czegely had been involved in both the “fair tips” campaign and the union’s struggle for recognition at the hotel chain.
He was allegedly dismissed on May 25 for “gross misconduct” after a Unite leaflet was found among his belongings.
The union’s regional officer for the hospitality sector Dave Turnbull said: “It is truly shameful that a few days after Business Secretary Sajid Javid indicated that he would act to ensure transparency and fairness on tips and service charges that a global hotel chain, such as Melia, should sack an employee for supporting our campaign to achieve this outcome.
“Melia proudly boasts of its ethical business stance on workers’ rights, yet this sacking flies in the face of any such claims.
“We are clear that this dismissal was in breach of Robert’s basic legal right to join and participate in a trade union.
“It also brings into sharp focus the need for the Business Secretary to underpin any regulation on tips and service charge with additional worker protection.
“It should also send a message to senior executives within Melia that workers in their UK properties should enjoy the same basic rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining in other countries across the globe.”
In May, Mr Javid’s office published a report into tipping policies, which proposed a ban on discretionary charges to bills.
The Spanish-based chain Melia has signed a global statement with the international food workers’ federation (IUF) committing to trade union organising in its British ventures.
Unite believes the agreement has not been upheld in London and Manchester properties.
The hotel did not respond to request for comment by the time the Star went to press.