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SIPTU Press Release on Hotel Workers Fighting to Protect the Minimum Wage February 17, 2011

Posted by Garibaldy in Trade Unions.
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From SIPTU

SIPTU hotel workers in battle to defend minimum wage

SIPTU members at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin mounted pickets this morning after being taken off the roster for refusing to sign new contracts reducing their national minimum wage rate by almost €1 an hour. When the legislation was being passed, the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, gave assurances that existing employees of companies on €8.65 an hour could not have it reduced without their consent. However, the workers concerned, all women from Eastern Europe, have been brought into three meetings over the past three weeks and repeatedly told they must sign the new contracts or face being taken off the roster. They were not given a copy of the new contract, either in English or in their own languages.

The women, who are from Lithuania and Poland and have worked at the Davenport Hotel for between four and six years, refused to sign the new contracts on 1st February when the new legislation came into force and have been removed from the payroll ever since. SIPTU served strike notice on the hotel on 9th February over the hotel’s decision which it regards as an effective lockout.

Although the dispute involves only five people it has implications for over 300,000 workers affected by the new National Minimum Wage legislation and related rates of pay in the hotels, contract cleaning, security and other low pay sectors.

SIPTU Vice President Patricia King said; “These workers were brought to a series of meetings where they were told they must agree to accept a reduction in pay from €8.65 an hour to €7.79 to ‘support the Government’. If they refused to do so they would be taken off the roster.”

“The other workers, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers, signed the new contracts. Like the five women they were not given translations of the document or copies. I think it showed incredible courage by these women to take the stand they did,” Patricia King said.

“As far as I am aware, this is the first occasion on which the new law has been tested in the industrial relations arena. The stakes are very high. Every employer in low wage sectors of the economy will be watching this dispute. If these workers are effectively locked out of their jobs and penalised for seeking to defend their right to the €8.65 rate it will signal a new race to the bottom.”

SIPTU sectoral organiser, Pat Ward, added; “This is bad for workers, bad for decent employers, including many hoteliers who treat their workers decently and negotiate change with us, as well as for the wider society because it will suck even more money out of the economy and reduce living standards across the board.”

“It means that the assurances given by Brian Lenihan last November that existing employees would not be forced to sign new low pay contracts were meaningless, as SIPTU and other unions predicted at the time. Fine Gael is threatening to introduce even more draconian measures to undermine minimum rates of pay set by Employment Regulation Orders in other low paid industries.”

The Davenport Hotel is part of the O’Callaghan Hotel Group owned by Persian Properties and property developer, Noel O’Callaghan, who has been a regular financial contributor to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over the years. The Group owns three other hotels in Dublin, the Alexander Hotel, the Mont Clare and O’Callaghan Stephen’s Green. It also owns hotels in Gibraltar and in Annapolis, Maryland, USA and is currently building a new hotel in Warsaw, Poland for €21 million.

Comments»

1. D_D - February 17, 2011

Well done SIPTU! Now black the place.

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2. HAL - February 17, 2011

Fair play to SIPTU,now if they could try and get as many candidates as possible to sign up / show support,but more importantly publish the names of those who dont.

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3. Friday Links « Éidín's Blog - February 18, 2011

[…] The Davenport Hotel is Four Star Hotel in Dublin City Centre . SIPTU members at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin mounted pickets this morning after being taken off the roster for refusing to sign new contracts reducing their national minimum wage rate by almost €1 an hour. When the legislation was being passed, the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, gave assurances that existing employees of companies on €8.65 an hour could not have it reduced without their consent. However, the workers concerned, all women from Eastern Europe, have been brought into three meetings over the past three weeks and repeatedly told they must sign the new contracts or face being taken off the roster. They were not given a copy of the new contract, either in English or in their own languages…Read More here […]

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4. Pope Epopt - February 18, 2011

Fair play SIPTU. Let’s hope this is a prelude the the drawing of battle-lines between the unions and the FG-led government.

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5. John Murphy - February 18, 2011

This is a sad case of greed, pure and simple, at the expense of regular folk just trying to earn a crust. Unfortunately it was all too predictable that some unscrupulous employers would try exactly this tactic i.e. cancel existing contracts and try force people onto a new contract at the lower rate.
If there really is a heaven and hell then I suspect the management/owners of this hotel can already feel a slight burning sensation on the soles of their feet!

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