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Unite protest at BHA summit against low pay and exploitation

06 June 2017 by

Low pay, zero hours contracts and a bullying culture are key contributing factors to the hospitality industry's recruitment and retention problems.

This is the view of the UK's largest union, Unite, whose members will lobby bosses arriving at the British Hospitality Association's (BHA) annual hospitality and tourism summit this morning about the need to "wake and smell the coffee" in relation to low pay and exploitative practices in the sector.

In particular, protesters will highlight that the £990 ticket price being charged to non-members for the event is equivalent to the monthly take home pay of a waiter or room attendant on the national living wage of £7.50 an hour. The summit is being held at the Grand Connaught Rooms, London.

Rhys McCarthy, Unite national officer for the services sector, said that the industry has done nothing to improve the public perception of hospitality in order to attract young people to apply for jobs.

"The problem is not just that people perceive these jobs to be low paid and exploitative," he explained. "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."

McCarthy added that the hospitality 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".

Later today Unite will hold an alternative event to the BHA summit during which waiting staff, chefs, housekeepers and others will be able to share their work experiences. The event will endorse Unite's Hospitality Workers Charter, launched in Scotland, two weeks ago.

The BHA summit will listen to a line-up of speakers headed by former shadow chancellor of the exchequer Ed Balls.

"On the question of zero hour contracts the BHA supported the end of exclusivity clauses where people were unfairly banned for working for more than one company. However we should all keep in mind it is not just employers that want flexibility and it is important to have a balanced approach as zero hour contracts are welcomed by many young and part-time workers."

Ed Balls to be keynote speaker at hospitality and tourism summit >>

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