Hospitality Bosses Told to ‘Smell the Coffee’ on Low Pay by Unite

Bosses in the hospitality and tourism industry were told to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ in relation to the low pay and exploitative practices in their sectors.

Low paid hospitality workers, members of Britain’s biggest, Unite, took their message direct to key industry leaders attending yesterday’s (Tuesday 6 June) British Hospitality Association’s (BHA) annual hospitality and tourism summit at the Grand Connaught rooms in London.

Unite, which represents thousands of UK hospitality workers, is calling for a real conversation in hospitality to tackle the problems of low pay, zero hours contracts and the bullying culture that are rife in the industry. There are the key contributing factors to the industry’s ongoing recruitment, retention and skill shortage crisis.

High staff turnover is causing a productivity crisis in the hospitality industry, costing the industry around £274m a year – a situation set to get worse post-Brexit.

The hospitality industry has relied on EU free movement as a constant flow of cheap labour to exploit. The industry’s calls for a so-called two-year ‘barista’ visa to attract young non-UK nationals, post-Brexit has been slammed by Unite as way to keep wages low and continue their exploitative practices.

Rhys McCarthy Unite national officer for the services sector said. “The industry keeps harping on about changing the public perception of hospitality in order the attract young people to fill vacant positions. Yet it has done nothing to tackle the causes of it.

“The problem is not just that people perceive these jobs to be low paid and exploitative. The problem is that this is very much the reality and that is what needs to change.

“Now faced with a staffing and skills crisis without the flow of EU workers, rather than tackling the deep-seated problems around low pay and exploitation, the industry’s latest gimmick is to call for a so-called barista visa to keep the tap of cheap labour flowing.

“Plans for a two-year barista visa for low-skilled workers with even less rights will exacerbate the problems around exploitation, while the industry continues to rake in multi-billion pound profits.

“The real conversation in hospitality needs to be around how the industry tackles the low pay, zero hours and exploitative culture which has been allowed to take root over many decades, because without a commitment to improve pay and working conditions nothing will change.

“Charging £900 a ticket for this event, which is what a minimum-waged waiter earns in a month, shows just how out-of-touch the BHA is.

“The industry’s open hostility to trade unions also needs to end so that we can start working together to make work better for everyone in hospitality – not just those that can afford to attend the BHA’s event.”

Later in the day Unite convened an alternative event in order for waiting staff, chefs, housekeepers and others to share their experiences. This event endorsed Unite’s Hospitality Workers Charter, launched in Scotland, two weeks ago.

The UK hospitality industry is the country’s fourth biggest employer, employing over 3m people and represents about a tenth of the UK’s economic wealth, equivalent to £143bn. – See more at: