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MPs condemn Whitbread's withdrawal from Ethical Trade Initiative

26 March 2018 by
MPs condemn Whitbread's withdrawal from Ethical Trade Initiative

Labour MPs have condemned hospitality giant Whitbread's decision to withdraw from the Ethical Trade Initiative ETI, as it called on companies in the hospitality sector to work to "ensure that people are treated fairly and with dignity".

Whitbread, which operates Premier Inn and Costa, quit the ETI in September last year after 18 months, following a row with the Unite Union.

Unite called the decision a "slap in the face" to Whitbread's 50,000-strong UK workforce but Whitbread argued that since it joined the ETI, it had been subject to "false allegations" about its employment practices by Unite.

Now three Labour MPs - Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Kelvin Hopkins and Jim Cunningham - have filed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons condemning the move.

The motion reads: "This House condemns Whitbread PLC's decision to quit the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) after just 18 months of membership."

It also expressed support for "100% of tips earned going to staff and trade union access in the workplace as outlined in Unite's Fair Hospitality Charter".

And it called on companies in the hospitality sector "to work with the ETI and Unite and other relevant trade unions to ensure that people are treated fairly and with dignity in the workplace".

So far, no other MPs have expressed support for the motion.

Early day motions (EDM) are motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons for which no day has been fixed.

Very few EDMs are debated, although there is no rule on how many signatures are needed to ensure an EDM is discussed in Parliament.

At the time of Whitbread's withdrawal from the ETI, Rhys McCarthy, Unite national officer said: "Whitbread's resignation from the ETI is a snub to the workforce.

"We had high hopes that its membership would open the door to better union relations in the notoriously anti-union and exploitative UK hospitality sector.

"It is deeply disappointing that Whitbread would rather pull the plug on its application to become an accredited ETI member, than work with Unite to become a genuinely ethical and sustainable employer to its UK workforce.

"The UK hospitality industry is fundamentally unethical.

"It is built on low pay, long hours and exploitation; workers have few rights and little power.

"It's time for the industry to stop seeing unions as ‘the enemy within' and start working with us to change and improve the way it operates."

Responding to news of the EDM, a spokesperson for Whitbread said: "We took the decision last year not to renew our foundation stage membership of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), however as a leader in responsible sourcing within the hospitality industry, we remain 100% committed to ensuring ethical and sustainable practice across our global supply chain.

"Since we joined the ETI in 2016, we have been subject to false allegations from Unite about our employment practices, specifically around our policy towards union membership, and Unite allege that we do not comply with the ETI base code. This is untrue and the ETI have confirmed that we met our obligations as a foundation stage member.

"At Whitbread we are regularly listed as one of the UK's top employers as part of various independent surveys and our employee engagement scores are at a record industry high, reflecting our leading employment practices.

"We are passionate about creating a great place to work and giving people the skills and opportunities to progress. Our training programmes and pay for progression policy enables employees to increase their pay and benefits in line with increasing their skills.

"We have an open policy towards our employees belonging to a union. Our employees are completely free to talk to a union, to discuss trade unions in the workplace and to invite a union representative to join them at formal meetings.

"We have a number of unionised team members who are affiliated with a range of different unions."

The ETI is an alliance of companies, NGOs and trade unions that promotes respect for workers' rights around the globe. Members include the Body Shop, Co-op and H&M.

By signing up to the ETI, companies commit to adopting the ETI base code, which is founded on International Labour Organisation conventions and is an internationally recognised code of labour practice.

Whitbread pulls out of Ethical Trading Initiative >>

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