These are the dramatic scenes outside Harrods today as protesters gather at the famous London store in a dispute over workers’ tips.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Knightsbridge this afternoon after furious staff claimed Harrods keeps up to 75 per cent of their tips.
Carrying signs reading “Stop stealing our tips”, they are demanding that 100 per cent of the restaurant service charge is handed to employees.
At present, restaurant and cafe workers are losing out on up to £5,000 worth of tips EACH every year, the United Voices of the Worlds union (UVW) claims.
Harrods employees have reportedly joined members of the union for the protest outside the luxury department store in Brompton Road.
Photos of the demonstration show red smoke rising into the air, while protesters carry enormous banners and police officers stand guard.
According to social media reports, some of the demonstrators have been heard chanting: “Harrods! Harrods! You’re so rich, stealing all your workers tips!”
One protester was pictured wielding a placard reading: “Hey Harrods, why are your workers too poor to shop at your store?”
Another was seen carrying a sign saying: “Justice for chefs and waiters.”
One person has been so far arrested at the demonstration, which has seen doorways blocked and roads closed, the Evening Standard reports.
Speaking from the scene, Petras Elia, general secretary of the union, told Mirror Online that the protest could be the first of many.
He said: “We’re here protesting today at Harrods. It’s the first of what could be a long string of protests until Harrods stops stealing the tips from their waiters.
“At the moment, the service charge, which is added to bills and which diners pay, comes to about £3.5million per year, more or less.
“Of that £3.5million, more or less, Harrods keeps around 75 per cent. So £2.5-£2.75million a year, which should be going to their chefs and waiters, and where the diners think the money is actually going, actually ends up in the pockets of the Qatari Royal Family.
“They’re the family which owns Harrods. It’s a disgrace that that’s happening. Harrods aren’t the only ones, other restaurants are known to be taking tips as well, but that doesn’t make it any better.
“Harrods should know better, Harrods has got all the money in the world, they don’t need to take the service charge which is left to the waiters and the chefs.
“We’re demanding that they stop that practice, we’re demanding that 100 per cent of the service charge goes to the workers, goes to the people who actually do the serving.”
Protesters and passersby alike have been taking to social media this afternoon to describe the scenes outside Harrods.
One Twitter user claimed that employees at the world-renowned store have been involved in “scuffles” with protesters.
Police have been forced to intervene in the incidents, he said.
Transport for London have warned drivers that there is a partial lane restriction on A4 Brompton Road, saying: “Approach with caution.”
Harrods, which has 16 restaurants and cafes, is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority – the state’s sovereign wealth fund.
The fund, which is worth more than $250 billion (£203billion), has also been used to snap up the Shard and Canary Wharf.
Harrods, “like many businesses in the hospitality sector”, uses a ‘tronc’ scheme to manage the distribution of the restaurant service charge on bills.
Earlier this week, UVW had encouraged people to take part in the protest, claiming “taking up to 75 per cent” of staff’s tips is an “utter disgrace”.
In a post on a dedicated Facebook page for the event, the union said: “Come and demand that Harrods stops stealing their waiters’ tips!
“Taking any percentage of the service charge, which customers think is going to the waiters, is unacceptable. Taking up to 75 per cent is an utter disgrace.”
According to the union, Harrods adds a “12.5 per cent service charge” to restaurant customers’ bills – but “takes” up to three quarters of this.
“This 75 per cent equates to around £2.5million a year or around £5,000 for each of Harrods’s 483 restaurant staff,” it alleges on flyers, distributed at the protest.
It adds: “We want staff to get 100 per cent of the service charge. Simple. There is no excuse for Harrods to keep any of the service charge for themselves.”
Harrods had recently pledged to improve the tipping system for its staff after the union threatened industrial action.
Today, a spokesperson for the store told Mirror Online: “Harrods currently employs over 450 employees in its 16 restaurants, all of whom are paid fairly and above national living wage.
“Like many businesses in the hospitality sector, Harrods operates a Tronc system on behalf of its restaurant employees.
“The Tronc system manages the distribution of the service charge only.
“Employees are not required to accept any deduction in their salary in order to participate in the Tronc system.
“Harrods regularly revisits its policies to ensure that we best serve our employees and has been taking steps over recent months to review and improve the current system through which it distributes its service charge.
“We have been engaging with our staff directly on this issue”.