Protests at Premier Inns in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland calling for staff to be paid the real living wage will be held tomorrow (June 17), the same day as parent company Whitbread’s annual general meeting in Dunstable.
Unite, which represents Whitbread workers in all grades and is the UK’s leading union, said its members are using the socially distanced protests to call for an end to the ‘poverty pay culture afflicting the company’.
The union said that as the owner of the UK’s biggest hotel brand, minimum wage employer Whitbread could become the trendsetter for improved hospitality industry standards.
Not only would this benefit Whitbread but it would help to set a benchmark for the industry, allowing it to overcome the staff recruitment crisis that is ‘hobbling’ the sector’s recovery from the pandemic.
The real living wage, based on the cost of living and set by the Living Wage Foundation, is £10.85 in London and £9.50 in the rest of the UK.
Around a third of Whitbread workers are paid the minimum wage of just £8.91 and despite the company’s ‘skill progression matrix’, very few staff find it possible to achieve the equivalent of the real living wage.
Most hospitality sector staff are paid the minimum wage, a situation that has contributed to well documented labour shortages across the industry.
Unite national officer for hospitality, Dave Turnbull, said, “We have long campaigned for better pay at Premier Inn and for Whitbread to recognise and work with Unite to improve standards for staff.
“Unite has and will continue to criticise Whitbread for its shortcomings: During the height of the pandemic, however, it has to be said that the company led the way by topping up furlough, so staff received 100 per cent of their wages, and by rowing back on excessive plans to slash 6,000 jobs,” he added.
“On the day of Whitbread’s AGM, as its senior leadership and shareholders plot a course for recovery, our members are calling for an end to the poverty pay culture afflicting the company.
“Unless this happens, Premier Inn and Whitbread’s other businesses will soon find themselves struggling with endemic labour shortages,” Turnbull continued.
“By becoming a Living Wage Foundation employer, Whitbread would also set an industry benchmark. This will carry great weight with customers and staff, as well as providing the hospitality sector with a solution to a recruitment crisis that left unaddressed will hobble the industry’s recovery well into the future.”
By Ryan Fletcher