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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.

Gateway lockout over

Gateway lockout over

The Gateway hotel dispute has ended after a 5-week lockout, with the union members getting a pay out.
For months the boss obstructed all attempts to get a collective agreement. Fed up, the staff went on strike on August 1. Two days later they were locked out.
During the lockout the boss began contracting out the kitchen and restaurant work. The 12 locked out staff were sacked with little prospect of getting their jobs back. While there was every chance the courts would have ruled against the employer and ordered him to take back the workers, there was nothing to prevent the employer pursuing his plan to contract out. He made it clear that he would make them all redundant, and there were no redundancy provisions in their individual contracts.

Lockout!

Lockout!

On 3 August a dozen staff from Gateway Hotel were locked out following strike action. The staff had been trying to get a collective agreement with the new owner, Rakesh Sharma, who took over the business last November.
First off Sharma sacked a waitress who was five months pregnant. She said she was told by the new manager her pregnancy was a liability and she should stay home. The regular staff had their hours cut, and their roles downgraded and a troupe of Faulty Towers characters were brought in to run the show.
All efforts by the union to get a collective agreement were ignored by Sharma. Mariana Rakuraku, a delegate at the hotel, says that management were telling staff to leave the union and kept trying to undermine efforts to start negotiating a collective agreement.

Gateway hotel workers strike

Gateway hotel workers strike

Friday night, 27 April, right on dinner time, staff at Auckland’s Gateway Airport hotel walked out of the kitchen and restaurant. It was the first strike there in twenty years.
Gateway hotel staff had not seen a union official for 15 years when they contacted the newly established union Unite in 2006. Most of the staff had years of experience but were on minimum pay and struggling to make ends meet. Some people were working two jobs, missing out on time with their families and friends.

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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