Unite hails victory as 1,500 Marriott hotel workers go on coronavirus job retention scheme

The decision by Marriott International today (Wednesday 22 April) to put its 1,500 casual workers onto the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme has been hailed as a victory by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union.

Unite has been campaigning strongly for one of the world’s leading hotel chains ‘to do the right thing’ by its casual staff at its 60 managed hotels in the UK.

Unite officer with national responsibility for the hospitality sector Dave Turnbull said: “Unite has been campaigning strongly and lobbying the company hard ‘to do the right thing’ and put all it casual workers, who play such a key part in Marriott’s commercial success, onto the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme (JRS).

“We welcome this announcement and will be monitoring how this works out in practice for our members in the coming days and weeks and will raise any problems with the Marriott management.

“The situation of these Marriott workers highlights the unnecessary and exploitative nature of zero hour contracts and casualised work.

“Many of our members worked regular hours for many years and legitimately had the right to permanent contracts. Once lockdown is lifted we will be demanding a new deal for hospitality workers which will include an end to the ‘zero hours’ culture.

“This news from Marriott can’t disguise the fact that the hotel and hospitality industry relies heavily on causal staff to keep the industry thriving and there may be some employers who are still not playing by the rules.

“If Unite discovers such cases, we will be raising them with respective managements, without fear or favour.”

Marriott International’s statement said: “We are now able to confirm that we have made the decision to place our casual workers in the UK into the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This will be effective from the date of hotel closure for all casuals that had worked in the last eight week period prior to that. This date will vary depending on when each hotel formally closed.

“To date, approximately 500 of our casual workers in the UK have already been asked for agreement to be furloughed under this scheme and the remaining casual workers will receive letters in the coming days.”

Unite industrial organiser (Unite hospitality) Bryan Simpson said: “On 8 April, Marriott Hotels sent a letter to over 1,000 casual workers stating that they were ‘yet to determine their position’ on whether they could be furloughed citing ‘significant cash flow issues’ as their justification.

“This is despite government guidelines released on 26 March stating that they absolutely can be furloughed and paid at least 80 per cent of average annual earnings.

“As the world’s biggest and richest hotel group, it was inconceivably unfair for Marriott to discriminate between permanent and casual staff in this way and then to claim that it didn't have the money to furlough some of their poorest and most precarious workers, particularly when 80 per cent would be covered by the taxpayer.

“Our members agreed and they banded together to organise through their trade union, many for the first time launching a collective campaign to demand 100 per cent wages including conference calls, online actions and a joint letter to the president of Marriott Europe.

“Marriott may claim that they were always going to furlough their casual workers but it was only after our members collectively demanded furloughment that they capitulated having made them wait a month for wages.

“While this is a massive victory for our members at Marriott, our campaign for justice doesn't stop here. We now call upon the Marriott to top-up the remaining 20 per cent of wages, including Tronc (tips) and ensure full sick pay for those self-isolating."