Global hotel chains in the UK, which abuse the employment rights of migrant workers, need ‘to clean up their act’ if they are to be ‘fit for purpose’ when tourist numbers pick up in 2021, as vaccines come on stream.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy select committee should establish a hospitality commission to investigate allegations of abuse of migrant workers as the UK hotel sector gears up for a return of international tourism.

Unite made its call  for ‘a new deal’ for migrant workers employed by such chains as InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott and Hilton on the eve of tomorrow’s (Friday 18 December) United Nations International Migrants Day.

The union’s also said that the UK National Contact Point (UK NCP) - which monitors the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines for multinational enterprises - should step up its corporate social responsibility role.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “We believe these global hotel chains’ conduct towards migrant workers before and during the pandemic has been in breach of the principles of the OECD guidelines. 

“Tourism in the UK looks like it will be one of the industries that could be well set for the post-pandemic, post-Brexit world, therefore we can’t allow poor and discriminatory employment practices in hotels cause reputational damage to the sector. 

“To this end, we are writing to the Commons Business select committee to ask it to initiate an inquiry in the new year into how hotel chains treat their low-paid workforce, with special reference to the additional hardships that fall on migrant workers.”

 Unite national officer for hospitality Dave Turnbull said: “We believe that tourists in 2021 will be looking to support hotels that treat and respect their workers well, and we will be making sure that visitors know exactly which of these businesses fall short in this respect.

“Tomorrow’s United Nations International Migrants Day is an opportunity to highlight how global hotels have ill-treated the migrant workers they relied on so heavily prior to Covid-19 during the past 10 months of the pandemic.

“Now is the time for these global hotels to dramatically reset their employment practices so they are ‘fit for purpose’ when tourism – one of the world’s biggest industries – picks up by the summer of 2021 as the various vaccine programmes come on stream.”


Notes to editors:

During its long-standing campaign for the rights of migrant workers, Unite has catalogued a number of abuses afflicting migrant workers employed by high-profile hotels before and during the outbreak of the pandemic. These include:

  1. Migrants who were obliged to sign minimum wage contracts with up to 50 per cent of earnings derived from service charges and then consequently furloughed on far less than 80 per cent of normal earnings and no offer at all by employers to top pay up.
  1. Refusal to provide translated communications or interpreters for those with English as a second language who were struggling to understand issues in redundancy and contract change consultations.
  1. Many migrants forced to sign zero or minimum hour contracts of as little as six hours week to keep their job. Those who were not willing to sign then dismissed and job retention scheme (JRS) money claimed to pay their notice.
  1. Hotels who have contracted out housekeeping on an invoice by room basis essentially abandoning these workers who are now being laid off without pay because the sub-contracted housekeeping agencies have little or no work or income. The hotels are not offering any support which might help keep those workers on furlough.
  1. Workers in staff accommodation being given less than 24 hours to vacate accommodation when they have been fired or made redundant. Then being left in limbo because of flight restrictions preventing them from returning home.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.


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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.