May 2nd, 1952
FROM THE ARCHIVES:A seven month-long industrial dispute over the introduction of service charges closed 15 Dublin hotels during the winter and spring of 1951/2. Its settlement was greeted with this editorial. – JOE JOYCE
IT IS good to be able to announce the settlement of a dispute which never ought to have been carried to lengths, and has created nothing but trouble. Fifteen of the leading Dublin hotels have been picketed for the past seven months. We are reluctant to excite tempers by any attempt to define whether, for the greater part of that time, a strike or a lock-out was in progress: what matters is that the beleaguered hotels have suffered a serious loss of revenue, that many workers have been compelled to live on their strike pay, that the people of Dublin have been put to serious inconvenience, and that the prospects of this year’s tourist traffic – which, as all agree, has become a vital element in the nation’s economy – have been endangered.
The stoppage began with a demand by the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union for a ten per cent service charge on all bills – the proceeds of which charge would go to the waiters, waitresses and other employés in the so-called “tipping zones” – and for an increase in the wages of the employés in the “non-tipping zones.”
The principle of the service charge was unacceptable to the hotels. On the surface, it looked intelligent enough. It is customary practice on the Continent and in certain British establishments; and it actually has been in operation for some time in various Irish hotels. Be that as it may, the fifteen saw danger, refused to concede the demand, and have been closed from last October until now. Only after a succession of conferences has agreement been reached.
The hotels will pay their employés higher wages, and the demand for a service charge has been dropped for the time being. It has been agreed, however, that the President of the High Court shall be asked to appoint a judge as arbitrator of a special tribunal to make a final decision on all the points at issue, including the service charge; and both sides have consented to accept the award of this tribunal.
It may be that the tribunal will decide against the service charge – in which event the position of the various hotels and restaurants that have been operating it for anything from months to years past will be interesting. It may be that the charge will be approved, and will become the regular practice. This is where the customer, who so far has been overlooked, has both a right and a duty to make his case ...
Much can be said in favour of tipping; much, too, can be said for the service charge. Service charge plus tips constitute an imposition that no citizen ought to tolerate, and we must hope that the final settlement will include some form of guarantee that one or the other, but in no circumstances both, will be permitted. In the meanwhile, we are happy that an armistice has been arranged before the tourist season has had time to suffer abiding damage.