* Activists say demonstrations held at 40 outlets
* Coffee chain offers to pay 20 mln stg tax over two years
* Protestors say concession is just a "PR stunt"
By Natalie Huet
LONDON, Dec 8 Hundreds of demonstrators
protested at Starbucks cafes across Britain on Saturday
accusing the U.S. coffee chain of avoiding paying corporation
tax at a time when the government was cutting essential services
because of a fall in revenues.
At one central London outlet activists from the
anti-austerity UK Uncut movement staged a sit-in, chanting
"Starbucks pay your taxes" and briefly setting up a children's
crèche before police moved them on.
Protests were held at more than 40 of the multinational's
cafes, including in Liverpool, Birmingham and Cardiff, UK Uncut
said. The demonstrations were held two days after Starbucks said
it would pay around 20 million pounds ($32 million) in British
corporation tax over the next two years.
Its announcement came after weeks of criticism in the media
and parliament following a Reuters report which said Starbucks
had paid no corporation tax in Britain over the past three years
while telling investors the local business was highly
Starbucks' tax offer was just a "massive PR stunt", said
Rosie Rogers, a 26-year-old UK Uncut activist, outside one of
the chain's London restaurants.
"If Starbucks, if all the tax avoiders, paid their fair
share, 25 billion pounds could be put back into public services
and enrich our economy," she said.
At a nearby Starbucks cafe protesting women lay down in
sleeping bags in a symbolic transformation of the outlet into a
women's refuge, a service they say has been hit by state
Finance minister George Osborne said on Wednesday his plan
to rid Britain of a record deficit would take even longer than
expected, extending the shrinking of state spending another year
Ahead of the protests Starbucks appealed directly to its
customers in newspapers adverts reprinting its pledge to pay
corporation tax in Britain.
"We know we are not perfect. But we have listened ... We
hope that over time, through our actions and our contribution,
you will give us an opportunity to build on your trust and
custom," UK managing director Kris Engskov said in the adverts.
The company says it has always acted legally since opening
in Britain in 1998 and is not hiding big profits from tax
authorities. Despite serving 2 million British customers a week
the firm says high rents for its prime location cafes have made
it hard to turn a profit.