Global hotel chains stand accused of making London one of the most ‘unethical’ tourist destinations in the world by its own workforce in a hard hitting report launched today (Monday 22 August) by Unite, Britain’s biggest union.
Unethical London, written by Unite, exposes the low pay and exploitative work practices that have been allowed to flourish unchecked in the multi-billion hotel industry, using the stories of London’s mainly migrant hotel workers in their own words.
To mark the launch of the report, Unite hotel worker members will stage a series of protests on Tuesday 23 August, starting on the South Bank near the London Eye from 17:00 before moving to the Whitbread owned Premier Inn, County Hall, SE1 7PB.
One contributor, a room attendant writes: ‘I feel destroyed after each day, the other girls are too tired to even play with their children.’ While a chef says: ‘I am so tired of 16 to 18 hour days, seven days a week and zero appreciation from my employer.’
The report shows that, despite many being signatories to various ethical social responsibility agreements, big name hotel chains, including Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) and Hilton are only paying lip service to workers’ basic human and trade union rights.
Unite is therefore calling on all hotels operating in London to adopt a set of ‘City Wide Principles’, based on the key provisions of the OECD guidelines, the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code and the United Nations Global Compact.
Peter Kavanagh, Unite London regional secretary said: “This report needs to be read by every hotel-owner operating in the capital. These are the stories of their workers in their own words, and it makes for grim reading.
“The London hotel sector is failing its workforce. It has become a byword for low pay and exploitation. If these stories tell us anything, it is that shameful work practices, similar to those exposed at Sports Direct, have no place in 21st century Britain.
“To its collective shame, not a single hotel in the capital pays the London Living Wage of £9.40 per hour. No collective agreement has been signed since the 1980s. Low pay, zero hour contracts and open hostility to trade unions have become standard practice, making London one of the most unethical tourist destinations in the world.
“It is a sad fact that hotel workers in places, like Manila and Buenos Aires, are shown more respect when it comes to their basic human and trade union rights, than workers in the capital of the world’s fifth largest economy.
“Now we want to change all that by showing that paying staff a wage they can live on and treating them fairly is good for workers and good for business. But to do this, the London hotel sector needs to start living up to its commitments.
“Our call is simple: work with us, take a stand against bad practice by signing up to our City Wide Principles. Together we can make London a world class and ethical tourist destination.”
A snapshot of report findings:
• 90 per cent of housekeeping staff surveyed said they were in constant pain caused by their job.
• 84 per cent of housekeeping staff surveyed said they suffer from back pain
• 53 per cent of front of house surveyed staff frequently miss meal and rest breaks because of workload and staff shortages
• 78 per cent of chefs surveyed have had a ‘near miss’ or accident at work due to feeling overtired
About 100,000 people work in London’s hotel sector, which includes small boutique hotels but also large global chains such as Hilton, InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) and Marriott. 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:
Read Unite's Unethical London report into the London hotel sector
When: Tuesday 23 August 2016, from 17:00
Where: Starting on the South Bank next to the London Eye, SE1 7PB. Moving to Premier Inn, County Hall, Belvedere Road, Westminster SE1 7PB.
Set of 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 employee, 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 charge
• 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.