IHG bosses: 'do the right thing'

Climate conference in Glasgow should be catalyst for global hotel group reset on employment rights

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Global hotel chain IHG’s annual meeting on Friday (May 7) should act as a catalyst for a new chapter in employment rights for its staff, especially as the world’s spotlight will be on Glasgow, where IHG has hotels, for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

Unite the union called on IHG bosses ‘to do the right thing’ in the run-up to COP26 (1-12 November), after they terminated the employment of more than 300 workers at its two prestige Glasgow hotels Grand Central and The Blythswood.

Unite organiser Bryan Simpson said, “As one of the largest and most profitable hotel chains in the world, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) could and should have retained these workers using the job retention scheme (JRS).

“Instead, they terminated over 300 workers at their two Glasgow flagships Grand Central and The Blythswood – using the furlough scheme to pay the notice pay of redundant workers. If that wasn’t morally reprehensible enough, they then invited some workers back on reduced hours and wages,” he added.

“This is hardly becoming of a hotel chain which hopes to profit from an international conference founded on progressive values which they refuse to uphold.

“We would urge IHG to right these wrongs by endorsing our Fair Hospitality Charter which would improve the wages, conditions and morale of their workers/our members.”

Unite national officer for hospitality Dave Turnbull added, “During the 2012 London Olympics the company promised to demonstrate its commitment to the principles of the UN compact by phasing in the real living wage and allowing trade union access to its hotels.

“It ultimately broke both those promises, resulting in a formal complaint by Unite to the UN Global Compact itself. The fact that Glasgow will host a major United Nations conference provides IHG with an ideal platform to right those wrongs in that city and ultimately change its ways across the rest of the UK.”

The company, which operates the iconic Holiday Inn brand and other high profile brands, has been a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact on human rights since 2009, but is accused by Unite of over a decade of union avoidance and abuses of workers’ rights.

More recently, it has been highlighted as engaging in the unethical practices associated with ‘fire and rehire’ in response to the Covid crisis.

Jamie McCann, former receptionist at Grand Central Hotel, said, “Alongside almost 250 colleagues, I was terminated from my job as a receptionist at Voco Grand Central Hotel in September 2020, despite proposing multiple alternatives to avoid mass compulsory redundancy.

“In October, I was forwarded on an email from the head of HR inviting some colleagues back to the hotel,” he added. “I then saw an advert for my exact same job. Indeed, I applied for this job, but was told they were no longer looking for front office staff.

“I believe our jobs could have been saved had the hotel used the job retention scheme as intended or, at least, listened to our alternative proposals. Instead, I was terminated with less than £500 in severance package, mostly covered by the taxpayer.”

By Shaun Noble

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