Hotel sector in London is more unethical than New York

Last year Unite union highlighted London’s ‘unethical’ hotel sector with the launch of their report Unethical London.

Whilst Tourism Concern has primarily concentrated on human rights abuses and exploitation in developing countries, 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. They have career and development opportunities; their contribution to the hotel sector is appreciated and valued and, very importantly, they are treated with dignity and respect. In short the very opposite of the experiences of their colleagues working in the same types of jobs for the same global chains in London.

The Unethical London report 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.

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 are only paying lip service to workers’ basic human and trade union rights.

Peter Kavanagh, Unite London regional secretary said:m

“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.”

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

Tourism Concern will be working with UNITE and partners in the coming weeks to highlight the issues identified in the report and campaign for fairer treatment of hotel works in London.

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