Pizza Express front of house staff has seen their income slashed after tip deductions from customers for kitchen staff post-lockdown were increased from 30% to 50%. Serving staff seeing their percentage of customer tips slashed.

Fair tip campaigners, such as Unite the Union, have accused Pizza Express of using waiting staff tips to boost wages of kitchen staff.

This is an appalling business practice by Pizza Express with their toxic tip policy being used as an alternative to paying kitchen staff competitive wages.

Only a few months ago Pizza Express chose to fire 2,500 employees rather than registering them on the job retention scheme. Now, the company is seeking to rehire 1,000 workers, a process complicated by labour shortages.

The Government have long promised to end tip abuse, but five years after announcing their intention to legislate, waiting staff continue to suffer through Whitehall inaction allowing bad businesses to rip off their staff, many of whom are earning minimum wage and reliant on tips to push up poverty pay to a decent level.

The Government continue to reward bad bosses, rather than support loyal staff and the good companies that strengthen and improve our economy.

Pizza Express is the latest example of a profitable business creaking under the weight of debt following a leveraged buyout by a private equity firm. A leveraged buyout is where a company is purchased through borrowing (debt) with the company’s assets used as security for the loan.

Loading Pizza Express with debt in excess of £1 billion to pay for the acquisition is costing the company £93 million in interest, wiping out operating profits.*1

We all suffer from the effects of irresponsible capitalism, employees livelihoods are jeopardised and wages are driven down. A profitable Pizza Express could fund competitive wages for kitchen staff, a debt-laden Pizza Express on the other hand has exploited the finance they have available to subside wages, in this case waiting staff tips.

When debt pushes a company over the brink, the community suffers, our local economy is weakened, jobs are lost, our favourite brand or retailer closes, and active and vibrant high streets are replaced with empty retail units.

The nature of our economy (and capitalism) is that competition determines which businesses succeed based on consumer demand. On this metric Pizza Express is a profitable and successful business, however, its future is in doubt due to speculation and gambling by private equity firms who seem to care nothing for the workers and the communities that make the world’s most successful brands.

This irresponsible capitalism values profits and dividends over everything. The value of a company is not determined by productive employees receiving a living wage, the contribution the business makes to the community or the service it provides to the public, all the focus is on maximising profit.

As a society we should value companies that make the greatest contribution not this chasing short term profits, as this irresponsible short-termism underpins economic collapse, business failure and the exploitation of loyal employees like the waiting team at Pizza Express.

I stand in solidarity with staff at Pizza Express and I encourage others of like mind to contact their own MPs, ask them to sign EDM 602, and make Parliament demand better paid and stronger workers rights, not encourage more irresponsible capitalism and bad boss charters promote by big business and the Conservative Government.

*1 BBC: Pizza Express set for talks over £1bn debt pile 7th October 2019

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