Cosatu says it will take legal action against the Mugg & Bean franchise because of alleged questionable labour practices at some of the group’s franchise restaurants.
Cynics might say that protesting is what Cosatu is good at and that the trade union federation needs an image boost in the wake of the progress made by the new union kid on the block, the South African Federation of Trade Unions.
However, that should not obscure the debate about what are common practices in the restaurant industry. Many servers don’t get actual wages, but rely on commissions and tips to make a living. And they do not have anything like real job security, either.
People who serve customers at some Mugg & Bean stores are only paid a commission fee on food they serve, not a salary. According to Cosatu lawyers, who are taking the matter up at the CCMA, this is a violation of the new minimum wage regulations, which stipulate workers across the board be paid a minimum of R20 an hour.
In addition, some workers claim that Mugg & Bean franchisees force them to pay part of what they get for “breakages”. That is, allegedly, a violation of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
For its part, Famous Brands – the holding company for Mugg & Bean – claims the arrangements between franchisees and staff are at the discretion of individual business owners.
That is avoiding the reality that if the claims by servers are correct, Mugg & Bean as a group is turning a blind eye to possible illegal behaviour.
On the other hand, some might argue a job is better than none at all and that those who work in restaurants are better off than many others.
However, preserving or creating jobs should never be used as a reason to exploit workers.