|Issue No 4||12 March 1999|
Union Protest Blocks Hotel Giant
By Troy Burton, LHMU/ACTU organiser
Hundreds of angry hotel and construction workers staged a noisy and colourful protest in front of the Accor group's three luxury hotels in Darling Harbour on March 8.
The protest by members of the Hotel Union (LHMU) and the Construction Union (CFMEU) follows months of anti-worker and anti-union activity by Accor.
The protesters were carrying colourful placards, banging drums, blowing whistles, singing union chants and calling on Accor to abandon its attacks on workers.
The meeting heard from Accor delegates and enjoyed a sausage sizzle in the hotel's driveway. The protest shook the hotel's manager and sent a strong message to Accor and the rest of the hospitality industry.
The delegation voted to hold a national day of action for all hotel workers to halt the employers' attempt to reduce hotel workers wages and conditions. Construction workers will also be protesting against Accor and showing their support for hotel workers.
Both unions have vowed to continue their campaign to defeat Accor's attack on workers wages, conditions and job security.
Hotel employers have traditionally focused their attacks on workers wages and conditions through coordinated attempts to cut or "strip back" award conditions. Initial efforts to radically reduce loadings and penalty rates for hotel workers were defeated when hundreds of hotel workers joined the Union and took to the streets in protest.
Employers continue attacks on workers
But hotel bosses have not given up the attacks.
A number of the larger hotel chains have tested the water by trying to persuade workers to sign individual and non-union agreements which significantly reduce conditions and job protections.
The hotel giant Accor claims it can't meet its budget despite making a profit of $20 million in the last six months from their Sydney hotels and paying a huge sum of money to an expensive firm of lawyers to help them lead this attack.
Workers not convinced by employer lies
So far workers at established Accor hotels have voted no to the wage-cutting agreements. But Accor is forcing workers at new properties such as the Sydney Mercure Central to sign individual agreement. If workers don't sign, they don't get the job.
Other hotels are either matching Accor's efforts, or will be forced to do so to remain competitive if Accor is successful.
Accor has also targeted construction workers building Accor hotels. Construction workers know that if Accor is successful, other companies and other industries will follow.
Hotel workers and construction workers unite in opposition to Accor attacks
The Peak Union body in Australia (the ACTU) has written to Accor, on behalf of hotel and construction workers. Accor's response was extremely negative.
Both the hotel and construction Unions have become concerned that the situation is worsening, and is now urgent. With this in mind, Jeff Roser, an executive member of the LHMU, spoke to the construction union (CFMEU) delegates about Accor's anti-union, anti-worker agenda. These delegates unanimously endorsed a campaign against Accor, and decided to start immediately, by joining together with hotel union delegates in the march and protest on Accor's Darling Harbour hotels.
More active members is the best response to the hotels' anti-union activities
Jeff Roser told the prosteters that workers in the hotel industry must organise to protect wages, conditions and job security.
"Employers are watching to see how effectively we respond to these attacks, and our actions now will determine what they do next.
"One of the most effective ways we can send a message to employers is by having a strong, growing and active membership.
"To make sure we are successful, it is vital that all hotel workers attend the stop work meeting later this month. To achieve this every hotel worker needs to become aware of the importance of the issue, and the urgency of organising our defence against these attacks," Jeff Roser said.
>b>What Accor and other Hotel Employers are trying to do:
∑ Almost totally remove rostering certainty and hours of work security
∑ Introduce "flexibilities" such as non-payment for overtime
∑ Remove ability to bargain for reasonable pay rises and additional allowances
∑ Reduce access to allowances (eg higher duties allowance)
∑ Clear the way for further attacks through individual contracts
Why workers must stop them:
∑ Success by one company means other hotels will follow to stay competitive
∑ Our best chance of protecting our conditions is to stop them now, before it can spread
∑ We want to IMPROVE wages and conditions in hotels, not let them get worse.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005