Unite targets anti-union Premier Inn for gagging staff

Unite targets anti-union Premier Inn for gagging staff

03 May 2017

Hotel workers, members of Unite, the UK’s largest union, will stage a ‘respect my rights, respect my union’ protest outside the flagship Premier Inn in London’s Leicester Square tomorrow (Thursday 4 May) over attempts to gag staff from speaking to the union or about trade unions in the workplace. 

WHEN: Thursday 4 May between 12:00-13:00
WHERE: Premier Inn, Queens House 1 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7BP 

Unite has accused hospitality giant Whitbread, owners of Premier Inn and Costa Coffee, of a flagrant breach of its own company human rights policy, and article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which includes the right to form and join a trade union of your choice. This was after union representatives were told by staff at sites across London that they had been instructed by management not to talk to the union or discuss trade unions at work.

Unite, which represents hundreds of Whitbread workers across the UK, is also pursuing a number of worrying allegations, including claims of unlawful deduction of wages over a failure to pay staff for breaks that they were not allowed to take and a suspected unfair tipping policy which denies workers their tips. 

Reports of the ban about workers discussing their rights has been confirmed by Unite members working for Whitbread- owned brands including Premier Inn, Costa Coffee and Beefeater, across the UK in a recent survey. 

Unite, is calling on Whitbread, as the UK’s largest hospitality employer with 50,000 staff, to be a leader for change in the industry by working with the union to build a better and more sustainable business model that respects the rights of workers. 

Unite national officer, Rhys McCarthy said: “Whitbread likes to make out that it is an ethical employer, but its actions speak louder than the words of its human rights’ policy, which unequivocally states that ‘all employees, without distinction, have the right to join and form a trade union.

“But far from allowing its employees to join a trade union of their choice, Whitbread, according to our reps, seem to be gagging them, not only from talking to the union, but from even talking about trade unions in the workplace. 

“This is completely unacceptable and a flagrant breach of their human right to freedom of association and freedom of speech. But not completely surprising when members are also telling us of alleged unlawful wage deductions, unlawfully refusing rest breaks, bullying and tips rip offs.

“Whitbread has admitted to focusing its recruitment programme at 16-24 year olds - in other words, young, cheap labour who often know little of their rights. It is workers like these who need strong trade unions on their side to give them the skills and confidence to challenge the low pay, zero hours culture that the UK hospitality industry continues to ruthlessly exploit.

“Industry bosses need to stop seeing unions as ‘the enemy within’ and start working with us to change and improve the way they operate.  We want businesses to thrive, so that workers can thrive, but this can no longer be built on a broken and morally bankrupt business model. It’s time for change.”

Premier Inn is the UK’s largest hotel chain with over 700 hotels across the UK with 65,000 bedrooms and plans to increase its size to 85,000 bedrooms by 2020. 


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

Note 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