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Prominent Politician Petitions Against Italian Chain Zizzi Fining Its Waiters

Tom Watson of the Labour Party asks that Zizzi does not punish waiters when customers don’t pay

Labour Party Conference 2017- Day Three Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

The deputy leader of the British Parliamentary Labour Party Tom Watson has launched an online petition calling for UK Italian restaurant chain Zizzi to “stop fining their waiters when customers ‘dine and dash.’”

For the avoidance of doubt, the phrase “dine and dash” refers to the act of eating in a restaurant and leaving without paying. Theft, in other words, for which Watson — citing a report by Buzzfeed — says Zizzi’s staff is taking the hit.

On the petition page, which is addressed to Steve Holmes, Zizzi’s CEO, Watson writes:

“Restaurant chain Zizzi is making waiters foot the bill if customers "dine and dash" or for other financial "mistakes". The money is usually taken out of staff tips.

"Mistakes" include accidentally undercharging a customer, allowing a table to leave without paying, taking an invalid voucher or gift card as payment or failing to complete a card payment.

“Some waiting staff have paid in excess of £100 on errors usually out of the cash tips paid to them by customers, or even "out of their own pocket". (Read more about this in Buzzfeed here).

“This is totally unacceptable. We must not allow this abuse of workers, which we commonly see in the gig economy, to penetrate into the mainstream.

“Please join me in signing this petition to Zizzi's chief executive Steve Holmes demanding an end to this practice. No business leader should be allowed to get away this.”

Buzzfeed’s report says: “Several staff have alleged that the 149-branch restaurant chain, which is part of the Azzurri Group (annual turnover £262.8 million), has a policy that leaves them essentially "financially responsible" for tables in the restaurant.

"‘Mistakes’ include accidentally undercharging a customer, allowing a table to leave without paying, taking an invalid voucher or gift card as payment, failing to complete a card payment — for example, if the card is declined — and losing a card payment receipt.

“It is legal for an employer to deduct up to 10% pay from a staff member to make up for shortfalls and it can also come from tips, meaning such practices could be widespread across the hospitality industry.”

Buzzfeed say they spoke to over a dozen current and former employees of Zizzi, and were told the “policy can be enforced at the discretion of management, leaving it up to individual managers to decide how to use it.” Sometimes managers would "help out to sort the mistake" but other times require contributions.

Some of those asked by Buzzfeed said they had paid in excess of £100 in instancs that the employer defined as errors, out of either the cash tips paid to them, or "out of their own pocket".

In the petition Watson quotes Frances O'Grady, general secretary at the Trades Union Congress, as saying: "Docking workers' pay isn't normal or acceptable practice. We don't know exactly how many bosses are doing this sort of thing, but even one is too many."

"Zizzi are trying to shift a standard business risk on to the backs of already low-paid workers. If a customer dines and dashes, that’s not the fault of the waiter, and they shouldn’t be forced to pay up."

Zizzi told BuzzFeed News that it has a “cash-handling policy in place,” and that it was "transparent". It said staff were "comfortable with the processes in place".