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Hotel housekeepers demand safety at work

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dignity for hotel housekeepers, make my workplace safe, union week of actionSexual harassment while at work is a constant threat housekeepers have to contend with.

Hotel housekeepers and their unions in 34 countries and over 50 cities around the world held a variety of actions to highlight their fight for rights, recognition and better working conditions during the IUF’s 3rd Hotel Housekeepers Global Week of Action which ran this year from October 31 to November 6.

The IUF – The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations – is an international federation of trade unions.

It is composed of 421 affiliated trade unions, in 127 countries, representing over 10 million workers in IUF sectors. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Many of the actions this year highlighted the central importance of preventing sexual harassment on the job, a constant threat housekeepers have to contend with.

Click here for example, to hear how union men in Chicago react to workplace harassment and assault complaints made by housekeeping and waiting staff.

The varied actions included workshops and seminars with experts and awareness-raising meetings with workers, management and the public, including leafletting at airports.

Unions also called for specific language on protecting workers from sexual harassment to be part of collective agreements.

Everywhere, unions demanded improved working conditions, greater job security and more respect for housekeepers at the workplace.

Unions also made use of the Global Week of Action to show to workers the important results of the ongoing campaign on bringing about concrete improvements in working conditions and as an organising tool for building bargaining power in hotels.

Speaking before members of the European Parliament on October 19, two hotel housekeepers who are union shop stewards called for action to put an end to the appalling working conditions in Europe’s hospitality industry.

Gladys Medina (CC.OO) and Carmen Casin (UGT) described to MEPs the permanent job insecurity, high rate of illness and injury and declining wages stemming from massive outsourcing, increased workloads and austerity-driven labour market deregulation.

The two women addressed the parliament at the invitation of Spanish United Left MEP Paloma Lopez of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group (GUE/NGL), who together with other MEPs adopted a written declaration on the working conditions of hotel cleaning staff in Europe calling on the European Commission to monitor and evaluate the situation of these workers across the European Union, among other measures.

The hotel cleaning sector is largely outsourced, with positions filled almost exclusively by women. Compensation for such work can be low, even though it is physically demanding.

Training, where available, is of poor quality and this, combined with few health and safety provisions, leads to a high number of accidents at work.

The European Commission is being called upon to incentivise hotels to improve the working conditions of hotel workers by introducing an EU-wide rating scheme which will provide information about the level of working conditions alongside the quality of service and cleanliness.

Lobbying by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Workers’ Group resulted late last year in the launch of a standard-setting conversation on violence, particularly gender-based violence, at work.

Over the coming years, the ILO will gather data from governments and employer and worker organisations about the extent of the problem in a step toward crafting an international convention.

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