A northern restaurant chain has been accused of ‘bullying’ staff into lending their money to the company.
The GMB union says the Tomahawk Steakhouse restaurant company asked furloughed staff to loan the firm part of their wages – or face the sack.
And workers at the branch on Lendal in York say this has happened to them.
However, the company flatly denies coercing anyone into the scheme – and says every employee has signed up voluntarily.
The GMB says the chain called a meeting for all staff – many of whom are on minimum wage – and asked them to sign an agreement to lend 10% of their wages each month to cover their pension and national insurance contributions.
According to the union, staff said they were told the company “will review whether you are suitable for your role” if they didn’t sign.
Workers then received a letter which included a loan agreement, saying “the company has a short-term cash flow issue and it now requires your help and support”.
It said “we respectfully ask, in these difficult times, for you to support us by agreeing to pay your own Employer’s NIC/Pension Contributions by way of a voluntary ‘loan’ to the company, whilst we are in lockdown”.
‘Went about it wrong’
One York woman said on Facebook: “I saw the letter as my son got one, and it basically was a case of lend us a percentage of your furlough or you’ll have no job to come back to.
“There are ways of doing things and they went about it all wrong.”
Neil Derrick, GMB regional secretary, said: “This is an outrageous abuse of the furlough scheme and a legal loophole that must be closed.
“It’s never been easier for businesses to access cheap money, yet Tomahawk is bullying its own young, low-paid staff to raise interest free cash.
“This callous behaviour will leave waiters and waitresses, pot-washers and cooks short of cash and force them to take out interest rated loans to cover the shortfall or face losing their jobs.”
Labour MP for York Central Rachael Maskell said: “If it isn’t illegal it certainly is immoral and it is certainly punitive to the staff that they employ.”
But Tomahawk Steakhouse refuted the claims.
It said in its statement: “At no point has Tomahawk Steakhouse suggested that members of staff would be sacked if they did not sign a loan agreement.
“Like the rest of the hospitality industry, we have faced a challenging year, and our priority throughout has been to protect our people and our business.
“As part of this and in order to survive the coming months, we asked our staff to sign up to a voluntary agreement to help us cover the cost of Employer NIC/Pension amounts, in the form of a loan. Every single employee chose to sign up to this agreement.”