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Westin Hotel workers fight for their jobs

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The rise of Unite Union



TV3's current affairs program The Nation recently did a profile on Unite, looking at the new approach Unite has brought to unions fighting for a better deal for low paid workers.

Industry agreement to lift wages in hotels needed

"It's time the hotel industry lifted wages across the board," says Unite hotel organiser Daphna Whitmore.

Speaking at the annual hotel industry conference in May, she proposed that the large hotel chains agree to raise the wages above the minimum.

"If the major hotels signed up to a code to lift the rates it would prevent the sort of competition among hotels that has driven down wages," she said.

She was speaking as part of a panel on the problem of recruiting and retaining staff in the hospitality industry.

The panel included Peter Gee, general manager of Stamford Plaza hotel; Paul Richardson, vice president of Accor hotel and Andrew Shaw an employment lawyer from Lane Neave.

The big speed-up - Housekeeping work overloads

Since 2006 in the United States the union UNITE-HERE has been campaigning for hotel workers' rights. The problems highlighted in the piece below will be familiar to housekeeping staff in New Zealand.


  • Hotel housekeepers are facing increasing injuries due to heavy workloads. In most hotels, housekeepers must clean 15 or more rooms per day.

  • Hotel housekeepers must rush to meet a daily quota of cleaned rooms. They frequently skip rest periods and meals in order to finish, and even work off the clock to meet their quotas.

  • In recent years, corporate hotel chains such as Hilton, Hyatt and Sheraton have increased both the pace and the amount of work performed by housekeepers.

Wake Up Call for Hotels

A surge in hotel strikes over the past month is giving a solid base for the launch of Unite Union’s hotel campaign this month.
Hotel staff may work in luxurious surroundings but they are paid poverty wages. It’s as if two worlds exist and much of what the guests see is just an illusion. The pristine hotel room appears as if no one has ever been there before, yet moments earlier a cleaner has been under enormous pressure to make it spotless. An average room goes for $300 a night, but the woman who worked frantically for 20 minutes getting it ready for the next guest is paid the equivalent of $5 a room. To get through her workload she probably skipped her tea breaks.

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