Restaurant workers at Harrods, the luxury department store owned by the Qatari royal family, are demanding an end to poverty wages at the billion-pound company.

United Voices of the World (UVW), the workers’ union, has written to Harrods notifying them a dispute has started which could lead to strike action over Christmas.

UVW won a dispute at Harrods in 2017 which saw restaurant workers win 100% of the service charge, when the company had been taking up to 75%.

During the coronavirus pandemic Harrods has made large numbers of workers redundant, which has led to overwork for the remaining staff.

Workers are demanding:

  1. To be paid a minimum of £12 per hour with an increase of 3% above the retail price index inflation rate every year

  2. Return of the commission policy that was in place until around 2016

  3. Transparency on service charge provision with the breakdown of tips intake for each restaurant, not just the total amount across all restaurants

  4. A food allowance of one staff meal and drink provided per shift that is longer than 6 hours to be eaten at a reasonable time from the canteen

One Harrods worker and UVW member, said:

“We have called for a ballot for strike action because we want radical change in regards to our benefits and salary. It’s very difficult, whatever benefits we had have been cut. The wages are so low, so many of my colleagues are leaving and no one is coming to replace them. When people come, they look around and don’t stay. We’re on poverty wages – and I have much more of a workload which effectively means I’m working for free.

“The cost of living is going up and soon I won’t be able to afford to buy food, rent. In the last year, the inflation has risen but not my salary. The wage I’m getting can’t cover my outgoings. We work in hospitality but we have to bring our food, or we have to pay for food in Harrods. It’s slightly ironic that the department store with the most famous food hall in the world, their workers can’t afford to pay for food. One salad costs 7 pounds, I work an hour to buy a sandwich. Harrods should respect us as we generate millions and this is how they treat us. It’s not how you treat people all while generating millions of pounds.”

Petros Elia, general secretary for UVW, said:

“Our members work in the most famous luxury department store in the world, and yet they are paid poverty wages whilst generating millions of pounds in profit for their bosses – the richest family in the world. Our members are not willing to tolerate this abhorrent state of affairs any longer.

“UVW beat Harrods in a battle over stolen tips four years ago. We will beat them again this time round, no matter how long it takes or what it takes. Harrods has a simple choice to make: either stop being a scrooge employer and pay your workers a proper living wage, or risk a mass walkout this Christmas.”

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.