Abusive behaviour in hospitality sector
Sir, – Angela Ruttledge (Opinion & Analysis, October 31st) claimed without evidence that workers in that industry are well aware of their rights. As a former restaurant worker, I disagree and wonder what research Ms Ruttledge has conducted to reach her conclusion.
The fact that bullying and harassment exists in all industries is a poor defence for the widespread abusive behaviour in the hospitality sector. All workers deserve respect and dignity in their working environment, and the highly pressurised nature of the hospitality industry is no excuse for abusive behaviour towards workers.
While I agree that, “The same laws apply to everyone, not just those working in hospitality”, I believe it is entirely disingenuous to make that statement without acknowledging the power imbalance that exists, especially for women and migrant workers. Workers are often too intimidated or have too much at stake to make an official complaint against someone who has power over their livelihood.
The psychological impact of a bullying or abusive workplace can be devastating. It might seem a relatively easy task to make a complaint through the Workplace Rights Commission if you are a native speaker, or indeed a legal professional, as Ms Ruttledge is. Unfortunately it is not such an easy prospect for younger and less experienced workers for whom English may not be their first language. We need to be realistic: harassment cases are very difficult to prove, and without trade union or legal representation they are very hard to win – and a worker bringing a harassment case to the WRC is likely to find it very difficult to remain in their employment. And the prospect of losing a job, even in today’s market, is a significant worry for those in low-paid and precarious employment.
In today’s environment of spiralling accommodation costs, and other costs such as childcare, one week without a job and a wage can have a significantly adverse impact on a worker.
I have witnessed and experienced both good and bad behaviour in workplaces. And there must be zero tolerance for any form of abuse in the workplace. – Yours, etc,
Unite the Union,