Unite the union has called on the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy select committee to establish a hospitality commission to investigate allegations of abuse of migrant workers as the UK hotel sector gears up for a return of international tourism.
The union also said that the UK National Contact Point which monitors the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines for multinational enterprises should step up its corporate social responsibility role.
During its long-standing campaign for the rights of migrant workers, Unite has catalogued a number of abuses afflicting migrant workers employed by high-profile hotels before and during the outbreak of the pandemic.
These include migrants who were obliged to sign minimum wage contracts with up to half of their earnings derived from service charges. This meant they were then furloughed on far less than 80 per cent of normal earnings with no offer by employers to top pay up.
Some workers in staff accommodation were given less than 24 hours to vacate rooms and were left stranded because of flight restrictions preventing them from returning home.
Unite believes that tourists in 2021 will be looking to support hotels that treat and respect their workers well. They feel there is now an opportunity for global hotels to reset their employment practices ready for when tourism, which is one of the world’s biggest industries, picks up by the summer of 2021 following the mass global vaccination programme.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said:
We believe these global hotel chains’ conduct towards migrant workers before and during the pandemic has been in breach of the principles of the OECD guidelines.
Tourism in the UK looks like it will be one of the industries that could be well set for the post-pandemic, post-Brexit world, therefore we can’t allow poor and discriminatory employment practices in hotels cause reputational damage to the sector.
To this end, we are writing to the Commons Business select committee to ask it to initiate an inquiry in the new year into how hotel chains treat their low-paid workforce, with special reference to the additional hardships that fall on migrant workers.