Capital’s hotel workers appeal to tourists to help the...

Capital’s hotel workers appeal to tourists to help them earn £8.80 on 08/08

06 August 2014

New film reveals how hospitality poverty pay shames London£8.80.
London’s multi-billion pound hotel and hospitality industry will be warned that it is tarnishing the capital’s reputation as a tourist destination by key workers demonstrating for a ‘living wage’ on Friday (8 August).
Hotel workers, members of Unite, the country’s biggest union, will denounce poverty wages rife in the industry arguing that it is appalling that London’s hotel workers are struggling to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world while across the Atlantic; the same employers are paying workers doing the same jobs fair wages.
The workers are taking 24 hours of action across the city to press their call - on the eight day of the eight month - to be paid £8.80 per hour. 
Unite says that fair wages are affordable in London, pointing to the example of New York, where many of the same big name hotels are charging customers less for rooms, but paying workers doing the same jobs more than double the rate of their London counterparts. Chambermaids in New York earn the equivalent of £16 per hour, while in London, it is £6.31 – the national minimum wage.
Although recently voted the most expensive short stay city in the world, and despite the Mayor of London’s promises in 2012 that he would take action to boost pay in the industry, not one hotel in London pays the ‘living wage’.  Most workers cleaning the city’s 135,000 rooms earn the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour even though the industry generates £5.7 billion per annum and makes profits of £10.5 million per day in London alone.
In the latest example of profitability, InterContinental Hotel Groups – which includes the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels in its portfolio – this week reported that their `first half trading was particularly strong in the UK, up 8.7%, with high single digit growth in London’.  However, the capital’s hospitality workers can look forward to a rise of just 20p per hour from this autumn. For those earning above £6.31, there is little likelihood of any raise at all with very few in reach of the £8.80 ‘living wage’ rate per hour (which itself rises in November).
Ahead of this week’s action, Unite officer for the hospitality industry, Dave Turnbull, said: “It is simply obscene that London’s hotel industry can become so wealthy on the hard graft and misery of its workforce.  Tens of thousands of workers across the capital are struggling to piece together a living, working endless hours for lousy wages. 

“Yet with the hotels charging a fortune for rooms and with London becoming an increasingly popular destination, this industry can well afford to give people the dignity of a ‘living wage’.  We know it is affordable.  If New York can pay its workers fairly and thrive, then so can London.
“In 2012, the Mayor, Boris Johnson, promised a better deal for London’s hotel workers.  But he let them down badly when he let this industry off the hook. 
“Voluntary targets and cosy promises do not put food on workers’ tables or clothes on their kids’ backs.  They need a fair wage.  £8.80 per hour is the least that ought to be paid to survive in the capital and we will not rest until these businesses act responsibly towards their workforce and the city that makes them so immensely wealthy.
“Until they do so, Unite will be reminding London visitors that this is a city where hotels get rich by keeping its workforce penniless.”
The 24 hours of action will take place as follows:
•    Thursday August 7: hotel and restaurant workers will leaflet bars, restaurants and coffee shops throughout the West End to promote the call for £8:80 per hour

•    Friday August 8: Unite hotel workers branch will hold a protest outside the Crowne Plaza hotel, New Bridge Street, London EC4V 6DB between 12.30 - 13.30 calling on owners IHG to honour their 2012 pledge to phase in the London ‘living wage’ for the lowest paid worker.

•    Friday, August 8: hotel workers will leaflet hospitality workers and tourists in the vicinity of More London and the Greater London Authority in support of their call for £8.80.  From 16.00, workers will hold a `poverty picnic’ outside the GLA on the banks of the Thames to remind the politicians of their duty to overcome the industry’s hostility to fair wages and make London a ‘living wage’ city. Key speakers - including GLA members and Unite leaders - will begin at 17.00.

The union has kicked off the campaign with a short film capturing the reality of life on poverty pay in London.  The workers taking part in the film tell of the daily struggle to make ends meet.  One worker washes dishes for more than 60 hours per week and travels more than two hours to and two hours from his work every day because his wages are not enough to meet London rent.  The link to the film can be found here£8.80.
In an echo of its successful `fair tips’ campaign to ensure fair wages for restaurant staff, Unite will be appealing to hotel customers to actively check that a ‘living wage’  is paid in a hotel before they book a stay. 

In the run up to the London mayoral election in 2016, Unite will be holding `hospitality hustings’ to allow workers from the industry to question the candidates on their plans to lift the workforce out of poverty. In 2012, Boris Johnson promised to make London a living wage city for the Olympics, a promise he failed to deliver on.

For further information please contact Pauline Doyle, director of communications on 07976 832 861 and/or  the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.

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Notes to editors:

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.