If the hospitality industry wants public and government support for a pandemic recovery, it must clean up its employment act according to Unite Union.
What was already a bad situation became much worse as zero hour contracts, illegal pay cuts, cancelled shifts and lack of access to sick leave and rest breaks have seen the economic burden shifted onto employees.
Since the first lockdown Unite has been constantly contacted by hospitality workers who know they have been treated unfairly but simply don’t know what to do about it.
In response Unite Union is rolling out mobile clinics across the country as part of its “Hospo Help” project to support all hospitality workers impacted by Covid-19 and its economic impact. On Friday 16th April from 2 to 4pm it is holding its first mobile clinic on Dominion Road where hospo workers can get free advice and support.
“Dominion Road is notorious for low wages and poor conditions. The ‘Dominion Road Rate’ is well known as an under the table hourly rate, usually 50% below the minimum wage.”
But Unite says the problems go much wider than just super-exploited migrant workers, with many large, well established hospitality businesses simply ignoring basic employment law.
“There is plenty of noise from hospitality businesses about what they need, but what we have seen is the already low paid and overworked employees bearing most of the brunt. They have lost jobs, hours, pay and conditions, often without any consultation and in breach of both their employment agreements and the law. As an industry they must clean up their act if they want the rest of the country to help them out.”
The most common problems reported are:
– illegal pay cuts for hospitality workers widespread during and after lockdowns,
– having zero hour contracts – no or few guaranteed hours but being forced to be available for work and refused time off when requested,
– not getting rest breaks as required under the law – some employment agreements openly state that breaks may not be given as required if its too busy,
– rosters with no set shift finish times,
– being bullied into coming to work sick – even in the midst of a world-wide pandemic,
– having shifts cancelled and not getting compensated as their agreements and the law requires.
The continued use of de-facto “zero hour” contracts is a major problem as employees are deceived into thinking they have to work whatever hours are offered each week, sometimes up to 50 hours. When business dipped workers suddenly found shifts cancelled and were left with little or no income.
“In many cases once we looked at the employment agreements it was clear that all employees at a business were in the same situation – zero or very few guaranteed hours, but illegally forced or bullied to show up for all shifts at the employers whim each week.”
Unite organises thousands of hospitality workers in fast food chains, hotels, casinos and cinemas, but the vast majority of hospitality workers have no access to collective bargaining, union or any independent advice or support. With the support of MBIE’s Covid Fund Unite is reaching out to those workers to help them cope with the pandemic’s impact.
“Our main aim is educate these workers on their basic employment rights and to give them practical tools to fix the problems they have. We simply do not have the resources to take legal cases for every hospo worker with a problem, but we can give them advice and find them the support they need.”
The mobile clinic will be at the corner of Dominion and Balmoral Roads (outside Potters Park) from 2pm to 4pm. Union officials and a hospitality worker will be available for interviews during this time.