Unite hospitality workers took to Belfast’s streets today (December 12) to “lift the lid” on widespread exploitation and sexual harassment of young staff in bars, restaurants and hotels.
The event was a one of a number of recent “Fair Hospitality” actions across the UK – as Unite’s campaign to improve conditions in the industry continues to gain ground.
Members manned street stalls and canvassed workplaces in Belfast to survey hospitality workers about their experiences of sexual harassment in the sector – which a UK-wide Unite investigation found to be “rampant”.
Unite hospitality organiser Neil Moore said, “We’ve been getting our ‘know your rights’ booklet out all-over Belfast and almost everyone you meet has something to tell you about.
“Most workers we speak to, especially young workers have experienced abuse – in fact, I would say sexual harassment of workers is the dirty little secret of hospitality in Ulster.”
Moore explained that the low wages and precarious conditions in the sector often leave workers reliant on tips and feeling powerless to speak out against both their bosses and harassers for fear of losing out financially.
He added, “We hope by this survey to lift the lid on what’s going on in this sector.”
Meanwhile in Dundee, Labour councillor Richard McCready publicly called on the city’s SNP-controlled council to make its business tenants abide by Unite’s Fair Hospitality Charter, which includes the real Living Wage, regular hours and a pro-active sexual harassment policy.
He told the Dundee Courier, “We have seen reports of employees in the hospitality sector being very poorly treated in Dundee recently.
“I believe that Dundee City Council as the landlord for many hospitality businesses and as the licensing authority should be looking for ways in which it can ensure best practice in the sector.
“A very useful starting point would be for the council to sign up to support Unite the union’s Fair Hospitality Charter.”
McCready’s call came at the same time as the Scottish National Union of Students (NUS) wrote to all its affiliates encouraging them to become Fair Hospitality employers.
The letter, which has been distributed to student leaders throughout Scotland, calls for an end to “predatory practices” within the hospitality sector.
NUS Scotland president Liam McCabe said, “An ever-growing proportion of students across Scotland work in the hospitality industry, often at the behest of unscrupulous employers.
“NUS Scotland are delighted to unite with Unite Hospitality to encourage our members to promote fair and decent workplace practices through their student unions.”