Unite in direct plea to London mayor to tackle exploit...

Unite in direct plea to London mayor to tackle exploitative work practices in London’s hotel industry

07 October 2016

London mayor, Sadiq Khan has been urged to put his ‘economic fairness’ pledge to the top of the agenda by tackling the exploitative work practices in London’s multi-billion pound hotel industry by Unite, Britain’s biggest union, today (Friday 7 October).

Unite, has today (7 October) written to Sadiq Khan and all members of the London Assembly calling for bold leadership and the adoption of ‘city-wide principles’ to deal with the low cost, exploitative business model used by global hotel chains. The sector employs an estimated 100,000 people in the capital. 

The call comes as the British Hospitality Association (BHA) holds its Big Hospitality Conversation event at city hall on Monday (10 October) to promote hospitality as a career choice, especially for young people.

In the letter, which includes copies of Unite’s study into the capital’s hotel sector, entitled Unethical London, assembly members are urged to push for the adoption of the union’s ‘city-wide principles’, based on the key provisions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines, the Ethical Trading Initiative base code and the United Nations Global Compact. 

The report shows that behind the public face of London’s booming tourism industry is a hidden army of low paid workers, where low pay, excessive working hours, zero hours contracts and open hostility to trade unions have become standard practice.

Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull said: “The BHA says that a good conversation can lead to good things. Well, it needs to start listening to our members, the hidden army of cleaners, porters, receptionists and room attendants who have painted a very bleak picture of working conditions in London’s hotels. 

“The reality is that the hotel industry is failing its 100,000 strong-workforce. Low pay, insecure working, exploitation and institutionalised bullying are rife. It cannot recruit and retain the type of workers it needs based on its flawed, low cost and exploitative business model. 

“Workers must be part of the real conversation which needs to take place within hospitality. Strong trade unions and respect from employers for the human right of freedom of association must be at the heart of this.

“We are calling on the mayor and London Assembly members from all four parties to get behind our city wide principle initiative, to put pressure on the global chains to start engaging with Unite. A truly ethical capital city and successful hospitality sector can only be built on respect.”

Unethical London, written by members of Unite's rapidly growing and increasingly vocal hospitality sector, exposes the low pay and exploitative work practices in London’s multi-billion pound hotel sector, using the stories of London’s mainly migrant hotel workers in their own words. Link here: 

The hospitality sector is the UK’s fourth largest employer, representing 10 per cent of the UK workforce. The average room price is £160 per night, up 7.3 per cent in the last year.


For more information please contact, Unite campaigns officer Chantal Chegrinec on 07774146777. 

Note to editors:

Unite’s City Wide Principles based on the key provisions of the OECD guidelines, the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code and the United Nations Global Compact:
1.    To respect the right of all employees to Freedom of Association within their workplace through the organisation of Unite as an independent trade union
2.    To allow suitable access facilities for Unite officials to present to employees the benefits of trade union membership
3.    To remain neutral in the face of union organising drives by Unite and to refrain from any acts of victimisation / less favourable treatment against active trade union members within their workforce
4.    To provide for secret ballots on the establishment of collective bargaining arrangements where an independent validation of majority support can be established amongst the workforce
5.    To respect the outcome of such ballots based on a straight forward majority
6.    Where a majority vote in favour - to establish a bargaining framework which addresses the following key issues
•    Recognition of Unite workplace reps in the following categories or combinations– shop stewards, safety reps, learning reps and equality reps
•    To engage in a genuine ongoing dialogue regarding the phasing in of the London Living Wage as a minimum standard for all employees, with equal treatment of sub-contracted and agency labour
•    To develop a joint learning and training strategy providing for equal opportunity for all employees in terms of acquisition of skills, progression and promotion
•    To work together to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees is fully protected and respected
•    To promote agreed policies and procedures to ensure zero tolerance of workplace bullying, and fair and transparent distribution of tips and service charges
•    To jointly develop any other jointly beneficial initiatives that may enhance the spirit and intent of the Core City Wide Agreement.

  • 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.