Pickets on Dublin hotel over new minimum wage

 

THE TRADE union Siptu has placed pickets on the Davenport Hotel in Dublin in what is believed to be the first dispute over the introduction of lower pay scales following the recent cut in the minimum wage.

The dispute centres on five housekeeping or accommodation staff at the hotel who, the union says, have been taken off the roster and the payroll for refusing to sign new contracts reducing their pay – which was set at the previous national minimum wage rate – by nearly €1 per hour.

About 40 other staff at the hotel have signed the new contracts.

Siptu said that the dispute has significant implications across the economy as other employers in low-wage sectors would be watching the outcome very carefully.

It also said the move by management at the hotel undermined assurances given by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan that existing staff on the previous minimum wage rate would not be forced to accept lower levels of pay following the changes introduced by the Government.

Speaking at the picket at the hotel, Siptu sectoral organiser Pat Ward said that on February 1st, coinciding with the introduction of the new minimum wage, management at the Davenport Hotel called workers in and told them they planned to cut their pay from € 8.65 to € 7.79 per hour.

“A brave group of five women said that they were not in a position to take the cut; they could not afford to take the cut and their employer has now taken them off the roster and off the payroll – effectively locking them out of their employment since the start of the month.”

He said all the women concerned were direct employees of the hotel and worked in the accommodation section.

Mr Ward said that initially the company had said the move “was in support of the Government”.

“This is nothing more than pure greed. It is bad news for workers and it is bad news for those decent hoteliers who are struggling to survive at the moment.”

“This is a new race to the bottom. It is an attempt to undermine the guarantees given by the Minister when he stated that those on € 8.65 would not be impacted as a result of the introduction of the new minimum rate.

“Unfortunately on the same day management at the Davenport Hotel sought to cut their staffs pay in tandem with the introduction of the new minimum pay.”

He said that the five women involved in the dispute wanted to return to work, return to the roster and have their rate of € 8.65 per hour honoured as specified in their contracts of employment.

He said other staff at the hotel who signed the new contracts included many who were non-Irish and who were not given a copy of the documentation in their native language or afforded the services of a translator.

“A lot of those people signed documentation, which I am led to believe, they did not know what they were signing at all.”

The Davenport Hotel, which is part of the O’Callaghan Hotels group, said there was no one available to comment.

In a letter sent to the staff concerned, dated February 16th, the company said it wanted them to confirm that they were available for work at a new hourly rate of €7.80.

It said that this rate had been agreed and accepted by the overwhelming majority of their colleagues.

The company said that unless they confirmed their availability to resume duties within seven days, it would have no option but to assume they had resigned.

It said it hoped the staff would resume their duties at the hotel.