Restaurant chain Bill’s accused of ‘duping customers’ over tips

By Jamie Elliott

One of the UK’s larger and fastest growing restaurant chains has been accused of deceiving customers by using tips to pay rock bottom wages. Unbeknown to diners, upmarket eatery Bill’s is using the optional service charge added to customers’ bills to subsidise rates of pay as low as £7.00 per hour.

A recent graduate who this summer worked at a west London branch of the chain, which  employs 2,200 staff in over 50 restaurants, told London Journalism Centre she felt “exploited, used and unappreciated” when she found out how tips were being used.

Bill's diners

“I was shocked to find that Bill’s was using the service charge left by customers to top up the minimum wage to pay me just £7.00 per hour,” she said. “It felt fraudulent because the customers were paying 12.5% on top of their bills to go to tips and we saw next to none of it.”

Staff at an east London branch of Bill’s visited by London Journalism Centre also said they did not receive tips in addition to their hourly pay. One waitress said she was paid £7.00 per hour, which she said was made up of the national minimum wage [£6.50 per hour] topped up by the service charge left by customers.  But she received nothing in addition to her hourly rate.  Another waiter, who had worked in the restaurant for almost a year, said he was paid £7.50 per hour, but again, received none of the service charge on top of his pay.

Bill's diners outside

Greg Hinchliffe, Finance Director at Bill’s, acknowledged that the firm used the service charge left by customers to pay wages throughout the restaurant, which, with the exception of managers, ranged from £6.50 to £10.00 per hour. But he added that if there was anything left in the service charge pot after wages had been paid this was passed on to staff at three month intervals.

“Where a restaurant finds it is building up a surplus [of service charge] this is distributed in full to team members on a quarterly basis – splitting across the entire team,” he said.

According to Dave Turnbull, Officer for the Hospitality Industry at Unite the Union, the restaurant chain is increasingly out of step with the rest of the industry.

“It’ll be news for customers of Bill’s that their tips for good service are being used to subsidise low pay. Many restaurant chains have turned their back on such sharp practices, but it would be appear that some like Bill’s are short changing staff and duping customers to squeeze out every last drop of profit. We’d question how such practices sit alongside the founding values that Bill’s markets itself on and urge the chain to get its house in order.”

See also:

Waiters hit out at bad table manners as restaurants use tips to pay wages

Celebrity chef leaves waiters with bitter taste over tips

Cafe waiters fear the axe over cash tips

 

 

Anti-Muslim backlash fears after French tourist is beheaded

Damian picBy Damian Grabiac

There is growing concern that the beheading of a French national, Herve Gourdel, by Islamic extremists on Wednesday could make life more difficult for Muslims living in France.

“I’ve been getting hostile looks on the underground and on the street since this happened,” says 23 year old Parisian Muslim student Assia Mansouri. “Some people think all Muslims are to blame for it, and this makes me and my family feel bad. I’m afraid that this anger will grow.”

The  brutal murder of Mr Gourdel in Algeria by jihadists linked to Islamic State, was in direct response to the French government’s decision to participate in air strikes against IS fighters in Iraq.

Herve Gourdel

French economist Julien Rabin, who lives in London, believes there is a lot anti-Muslim sentiment lurking beneath the surface in his home country, which the recent murder of Mr Gourdel is likely to unleash.

“I think what happened yesterday could increase negative attitudes towards Islamic people in France, especially among people who are already are islamophobic,” he says. “People are not yet really saying what they are thinking.

Support for the far right continues to grow in France with a Le Figaro poll published early this month suggesting that Marie Le Pen’s National Front party has a good chance of winning the presidential elections in 2017.

LGBT Scots set to vote overwhelmingly yes in independence referendum

Damian picBy Damian Grabiec

A big percentage of Scottish LGBT people are expected to vote in favour of independence in today’s referendum according to an opinion poll and preferences on social media.

More than three quarters of 1000 Scottish LGBT people surveyed by gay charity KaleidoScot at the beginning of this month backed breaking away from the rest of the UK. The Facebook page of the Yes LGBT campaign has also attracted enormous support compared to its No equivalent. Almost 17,000 people liked the Yes LGBT Facebook page, compared to only 1000 who liked the LGBT together page.

According to a one gay pro-independence campaigner, the LGBT community in Scotland will vote yes because it feels let down by Westminster.

Scotland

“The full powers of independence being held in Scotland offers our community the opportunity to press for so much to change in policy that has been ignored by Westminster,” says Yes LGBT Campaign Manager for Banffshire and Buchan Coast Paul Robertson. “The equalisation of private pension rights for gay couples, for example.”

Robertson also claims that the high support for a yes result amongst gay and lesbian voters is explained by their higher than average interest in politics.

“LGBT communities tend to be strongly politicised and the support for equality, diversity and social justice which pervades the politics of LGBT people has meant that the positive and aspirational Yes campaign is a rather natural option for LGBTI individuals,” he says.

But lesbian Glasgow Labour councillor Judith Fisher believes leaving the UK will weaken the gay community in Scotland.

Journalism courses

Glasgow councillor Judith Fisher

“It makes sense to be part of a larger unit, giving us more influence on the world stage, so we can help secure the rights of LGBTI individuals elsewhere in the world,” she says. “The rights we’ve secured have been hard fought for and I think we can be proud of what we’ve achieved together. So many of our rights are newly secured and need to be protected. Remaining part of the UK, as an active member of the EU, is the best way to do that.”

Transgender models storm fashion world

Damian picBy Damian Grabiec

Transgender people are enjoying increased visibility on the catwalk as designers and photographers respond to a growing demand for gender-bending models who challenge the old distinctions between male and female.

“Over the last decade or so I have most definitely noticed an increase in interest in transgender models in fashion photography” says PR and event management professional and transgender model Amanda Dee. “About 15 years ago we were looked upon as some freaks of nature, but today the photographers are more ready to accept us.”

Only last month, bearded transgender model and Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst shocked the fashion world by modelling women’s lingerie alongside a pregnant model in a series of shots taken by top photographer and designer Karl Lagerfeld.

Fashion Journalism

Conchita Wurst poses for top fashion photographer Karl Lagerfeld

And just this week, transgender model Andreja Pejic launched a kickstarter campaign to fund a film about her life. Pejic caused a sensation last year when, still living as a man, she became the first male model to appear on the cover of Elle magazine. She previously shook up the Dutch fashion world when she modelled a push-up bra in a poster advert for fashion store Hema.

Transgender model Andreja Pejic

Transgender model Andreja Pejic

According to Trans Media Watch chair Jennie Kermode, transgender models are appealing to an increasingly wide and mainstream audience.

“A few years ago, trans models were generally spoken of with derision, or people expressed shock that they could look attractive,” she says. “Now we find that heterosexual men are increasingly willing to be open about being attracted to trans women.”

The high visibility of some of these increasingly daring and successful models is having an impact beyond the fashion world.

“There is still some loud hostility toward obviously ambiguous models like Conchita Wurst but even in that case we see a lot of women describe them as beautiful, and some men adding their voices to this,” adds Kermode. “This is really helping to create a space for gender variant people to live openly within society. In addition, it’s raising awareness of the fact that not everybody wants to live in a clearly defined male or female role.”

FASHION JOURNALISM COURSE – starts Weds Sep 17 – only £245

Russians in cut-off enclave face food shortages as import embargo bites

Damian picBy Damian Grabiec

Almost a million Russians in Kaliningrad, an isolated enclave squeezed between Poland and Lithuania, are facing empty supermarket shelves as Moscow’s embargo on food imports from Europe hits them hard.

“My family and lots of my friends are going to Poland to buy basic vegetables and fruit because it’s increasingly hard to get them here,” Ksenia Pavlova, a Russian woman from Kaliningrad told London Journalism Centre. “As the situation gets worse, I’m afraid we’ll have to buy most of our food there.”

Residents of the Russian outpost, which produces virtually no food of its own, are forming long queues at the Polish border as they wait to cross to stock up with basic grocery supplies.

Journalism Courses

Russian cars queuing to cross from Kaliningrad to Poland last week

“Since the Russian embargo has been put in to place, we have observed an increase in Russians coming from Kaliningrad,” says Polish customs spokesman Ryszard Chudy, based at Olsztyn, a city close to the border. “Until now Kaliningrad could import food it needed from EU countries, but now people need to come to Poland and buy food privately.”

Polish shopkeepers are reporting bumper sales as residents of the Kaliningrad enclave flood across the border to buy food, taking advantage of the lifting of visa restrictions agreed by Poland and Russia two years ago.

“Russians have been coming here to buy everything, from home electronics to cleaning supplies,” says, “Janina Kowalik, the owner of a small Polish store close to the border. “But now they are focused mostly on food and they are already majority of my customers.”

Polish gay rights symbol attacked

Damian picBy Damian Grabiec

An art work which has become a symbol for gay rights in Poland was the target of an arson attack last week.

The Warsaw Rainbow, which dominates one of the city’s main squares, was set on fire by two men on Thursday morning.

Created by artist Julita Wójcik, and strongly identified with Poland’s LGBTI movement, the Rainbow has already been attacked by arsonists five times.

Polish LGBTI activist and member of the Greens Daniel Michalski told London Journalism Centre: “I’m shocked that the Rainbow has been attacked yet again. It’s incredible that there is so much hate against LGBTI people nowadays in Poland, not helped by the Catholic church and parties, like Law and Justice, which justify and even provoke such behaviour.”

Rainbow in Warsaw on fire pic

The Warsaw Rainbow in flames on Thursday morning

Homophobia and transphobia are big problems in Poland. 77% of young Poles encounter hate speech towards LGBTI on the Internet according to University of Warsaw and The Stefan Batory Foundation studies.

Nonetheless, attitudes towards gay people in Poland are becoming more tolerant. 55% of Poles said they were in favour of civil unions for homosexuals in a 2013 Homo Homini poll.

Some gay Poles however, like Tomasz Marcinkowski, who now lives in the UK, chose to leave their country.

“If the authorities of my country don’t react to aggression against me, I don’t care about this country,” he says the student of biology. “I need a place where I could feel safe and where I can plan the future with my partner.”

Intern wanted to help support journalists in Sierra Leone, Kenya and India

Journalism Courses

A charity that trains and mentors citizen journalists in Sierra Leone, Kenya and India is looking for an Editorial Assistant intern to help place stories in the UK and international press.

Hackney based charity Radar needs an enthusiastic and accurate writer who can help with editing and promoting stories written by citizen journalists in developing countries.

The charity supports more than 300 reporters and needs help getting their stories covered by the mainstream media.

The intern will work up to three days per week and will receive travel and lunch expenses. Radar is looking for a commitment of at least two months.

To apply please email Radar Operations Manager Olivia Stewart with your CV and an example of your writing: olivia@onourradar.org

Anti-homeless studs on Hackney Council benches condemned

By Jamie Elliott

Residents and business owners have hit out at Hackney Council for installing studs on benches to deter homeless people from sleeping on them.

Local people have branded the council heartless for adding the metal studs to benches in Dalston Square, an increasingly popular meeting place in one of Hackney’s most affluent areas.

Journalism Courses

Benches on Dalston Square are covered with anti-homeless studs

“I think it’s quite wrong that the council are trying to push the problem of homelessness away by making it impossible for people to lie on these benches,” said a local restaurant owner who preferred not to be named. “The council should be dealing with the problem of homelessness, not putting in these cruel studs to get rid of people who have nowhere to sleep.”

Journalism Courses

The benches in Dalston Square, Hackney

The issue of anti-homeless features in architecture was highlighted earlier this year when studs appeared in a doorway in an apartment block in Southwark Bridge road, previously used by rough sleepers.

Speaking at the time, Katharine Sacks-Jones, head of policy and campaigns at Crisis, said people “deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes.”

Following the furore and condemnation by the mayor, Boris Johnson, the studs were removed.

 

 

Attack on council newspapers ‘smacks of Putinism’

Waithera JunghaeBy Waithera Junghae

New powers which would allow the government to gag council newspapers are
unnecessary and reminiscent of Soviet style government according to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The union claims the proposed measures could give Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government power to prevent councils using their newspapers to report controversial issues like local hospital closures or the HS2 rail link.

“The gagging of local council publications seems to fly in the face of the coalition’s purported support of localism,” said NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet. “There are adequate sanctions if these publications step out of line.”

Earlier this year Pickles criticised local council newspapers, saying they were a waste of money and dubbed them “Pravda-style” publications.

The NUJ’s Stanistreet said: “ Eric Pickles is pleased to sound off about what he calls town hall Pravdas, but it seems his plans to determine what these newspapers can print, if at all, smacks of Putinism.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) is also worried about the proposed new measures.

“Councils have a legitimate, local, democratic mandate,” said Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA. “To simply make it easier for government to ignore the views of communities is unacceptable, sets a dangerous precedent and will mean local areas and residents will suffer as a result.”

The LGA claims that discussion of issues including HS2, large housing developments and cuts to police and fire services could be banned under the proposals.

Wannabe hacks ‘bullied at work’

Waithera JunghaeBy Waithera Junghae

Interns starting out on their career in journalism face harassment and bullying the industry’s biggest union has told London Journalism Centre.

A spokesperson for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) claimed that bullying interns is common in newsrooms. “I think that internships are a large scourge of the creative industries,” she said. “Young people put an awful lot of pressure on themselves, and because it is seen as a glamorous and competitive industry, people think they can treat people badly.”

The problem is not confined to national media.

“I think in local papers one thing that came out is there is an awful lot of bullying because the union is not allowed to be there,” the NUJ spokesperson added.

Journalism intern

Young women are especially vulnerable to bullying

The NUJ had told the Leveson Inquiry about “shocking behaviour” in the industry,including a female reporter-who had already been taunted about her weight in the newsroom-being made to wear a meat outfit for a Lady Gaga story. Last year, the NUJ slammed the Sun for asking a 21 year old doing work experience to strip off and pose with a member of staff for mocked-up pictures of Prince Harry.

Chris Hares, Campaigns Manager for Intern Aware, told London Journalism Centre: “It is very disappointing that interns are still not always treated as well as other employees, including not being paid, in some sections of the creative industries.

According to Hares, 82 per cent of new entrants to journalism have done an internship, of which 92 per cent are unpaid.

“This is really unfair on those that cannot afford to work for free,” he said.

Hares commended organisations like Creative Society and RIBA for setting a great example by ensuring that their members are paying and supporting interns.

A recent study commissioned by the Federation of Entertainment Unions, which revealed that bullying was widespread in the creative industries, found that younger staff were especially vulnerable. Over half of those aged between 16 and 30 had experienced harassment in the workplace.

More than fifty per cent of the 4,000 who took part in the study said they had been bullied at work. All respondents in local newspapers reported being harassed or discriminated at work. The survey also found that women were more vulnerable than men, with 64 per cent of women experiencing ill-treatment compared to 49 per cent of men.