It is a national scandal that London, in terms of hotel workers, is now one of the most ‘unethical’ tourist destinations in the world. In comparison in New York, which has many similarities to London, the hotel workers have safe, secure and very well paid employment.
There is no reason why the big names in London hotels cannot pay their staff a decent wage. The hoteliers need to know that £4 for 37 minutes work to clean a room is unethical and unacceptable (and raise doubts about how clean the room really is).
Over the last few years there have been a series of exposes in the broadsheets about the poor working conditions of the workers who clean the rooms in London’s franchised hotels. The Guardian in May 2015, reported an interview, with six Polish women who worked at the four-star Park Plaza Hotel near County Hall.
“Four months ago, as employees of Hotelcare, “where first-class service comes as standard”, they were paid £6.50 an hour to clean 13 rooms in eight hours, every day, five days a week– a long way short of the London living wage of £9.15 an hour. Then the contract was taken over by another cleaning services company, WGC, “servicing over 10 million hotel rooms a year”, including Claridges and the Hilton. The women say they were assured there would be no change. Now, they clean 15 to 17 bedrooms in seven and a half hours a day; more work, less pay.”
Thirteen rooms in eight hours , that’s an ensuite room, and they are often left in a state by the guests. So that’s 37 minutes per room, not allowing for clocking on and off and getting to and between the rooms.
Look at that the other way and it is £4 to clean the room, is that reasonable as a proportion of the cost of staying is an international hotel chain room in London. London is an expensive place to visit and an expensive place to live. The owners and managers refuse to recognise the issue of low pay and exploitation in hotels which trumpet their sustainability credentials.
This from the New Statesman in March 2016
“As wealthy guests bed in for a lucrative business trip or luxurious city break, those who clean their rooms and make their visit comfortable are being exploited. Many high-profile global hotel chains employ their London staff via agencies, which break employment law to keep their profits as high as possible. Common employment abuses reported by workers and union representatives include forcing employees to work overtime with no extra pay, being denied holiday days, refusal to pay for sick leave, unfair dismissals, breaking or changing contracts without notice, and even failing to supply a contract at all.”
In January 2013 the Institute for Human Rights and Business, which helped launch the Staff Wanted Initiative, called on major UK hotel chains to clean up their act and take more responsibility to stop the mistreatment and exploitation of agency workers in hotels. In 2014 the International Tourism Partnership, which has most of the major franchises in membership, identified health and safety and labour rights as top issues industry stakeholders felt hoteliers needed to address.
In August 2016 London mayor, Sadiq Khan was 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. Peter Kavanagh, Unite London regional secretary said of the “unethical” London hotel sector that it
“… 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.”
You can read about Unite’s 2016 Unethical London campaign here
Read about Unite’s latest campaign here
Download the report, published May 1st 2019 Unthethical IHG Report (1)
A snapshot of the report findings:
- 90% of housekeeping staff surveyed said they were in constant pain caused by their job.
- 84% 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% of chefs surveyed have had a ‘near miss’ or accident at work due to feeling overtired
- 71% of waiting staff do not know how their tips are calculated and what percentage they get
And the next time you book into a big London hotel ask what wage the room attendants are paid and how many rooms they are required to clean in a shift. By asking these questions you can help create change.