Hospitality workers in the eye of the COVID-19 storm need more support, urges Unite

Unite, which represents thousands of hospitality workers, is urging the government to not ignore the plight of workers in the sector following the announcement of a return to a full national lockdown in England and Scotland.

Business support

Unite made its call after the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that hospitality businesses will be provided with additional support and receive grants of £9,000 each.

Hospitality workers have found themselves in the eye of the storm since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As a result, tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs.

Pay crisis

The remaining workers have spent long periods on furlough and have also experienced attacks on their terms and conditions; for instance, there has been a major increase in zero hours contracts.

Hospitality workers, like many others, are in an increasingly precarious position with the ban on evictions for private sector tenants ending next week  and the opportunity for mortgage holidays and the ban on repossessions ending on January 31.

Minimum wage rate

Unite is calling for an immediate reform to the Job Retention Scheme so that the national minimum wage is introduced as a floor and no one is furloughed at a rate below this.

This is particularly relevant for hospitality workers many of whom are only paid the minimum wage.

Given the huge number of job losses in the sector, Unite is calling on the government to establish a hospitality training commission, which would provide retraining opportunities for displaced hospitality workers and ensure that they are able to secure a higher level qualification than they already possess.

Forgotten victims 

Unite assistant general secretary with responsibility for the hospitality sector, Howard Beckett, said: “The government’s announcement of fresh loans for hospitality businesses will provide some respite for employers but the workers are the forgotten victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Workers have had their livelihoods put on hold for a year and are now facing serious financial problems.

“While the Job Retention Scheme has kept many workers afloat, it needs urgent reform to ensure that workers aren’t receiving below the minimum wage which is simply not enough money to survive on.

“Such a reform is especially urgent as other protective measures, such as the ban on evictions and home repossessions, end within days.

“It is also essential that the government launches a new deal for the thousands of hospitality workers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Retraining and the opportunity to gain new qualifications are vital in order to help workers find new sustainable employment.”