Unions press for better treatment, policies for hotel housekeepers

CONTINUING the initial salvo fired during the recent Bonifacio Day rally, activists from the trade unions and other mass organizations pressed anew for better treatment and policies for hotel housekeepers by picketing today the office of the national association of hotel housekeeping managers in Manila.

Led by members of NUWHRAIN-APL-SENTRO, the protesters urged the officials of the Executive Housekeepers Association of the Philippines (EHAP) to heed their demands aimed at addressing the plight of the “overworked, underpaid, abused and perpetually contractual” hotel housekeeping staff.

The picket coincided with the observance of the National Human Rights Awareness Week, which includes the International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, to reiterate the call that “workers’ rights are human rights.”

Members of EHAP – quite a misnomer since it is actually composed of managerial personnel – are usually the direct supervisors of “true” housekeepers; thus, the former are the first-line implementors of unjust and harmful practices against the housekeepers in the HRCT (hotel, restaurant, catering and tourism) industry.

NUWHRAIN noted that the campaign obviously targets also the top management and employers in the hospitality industry, specifically in the hotel sector, and not merely their subordinates among the EHAP executives.

This drive is part of the international campaign dubbed “Make Up My Workplace,” which was started last year by the global union IUF because of the worsening plight of hundreds of thousands of housekeepers – majority are women and many are migrants – in the booming hotel industry around the world.

Despite their equally important functions and the regular nature of their work, hotel housekeepers more often get lower wages and fewer benefits; but have heavier workloads, more prone to workplace hazards and sexual harassment or outright assaults, and typically remains contractual – effectively denying them the economic and political gains that may be enjoyed by regular workers, including the right to join a union and to receive additional rights and benefits from a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The IUF lamented that the job of hotel housekeepers are seen as “unskilled” which justify their lower wages, although they: work lifting heavy loads (regularly lifting king-sized and larger mattresses); work within strict time limits (15 or even 12 minutes to clean a room) and unreasonable quotas or number of rooms to be cleaned each shift (15 or as high as 30); use toxic chemicals and cleaning solvents; operate commercial sized vacuum cleaners; and perform 10 to 15 different cleaning tasks in one shift.

NUWHRAIN added that some hotels do not have trolleys forcing the housekeepers to carry or put in a bag on their backs heavy linens, towels, cleaning materials and tools, which frequently cause back pain, slip disc, joint and knee problems.

This blatant disregard for or violation of occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) may result not only to temporary injury but also to permanent disability of the workers, NUWHRAIN warned.

It added that the hotels’ “closed door” policy coupled with requiring chambermaids to wear miniskirts while cleaning the room may make them vulnerable to sexual harassment or actual rape from some guests.

Looking down on the value of work of the housekeepers as merely “auxiliary” or “non-essential” – plus the selfish motive to amass bigger profits – hotel employers, led by the global hotel chains, resort to contracting out housekeeping services from outsourcing agencies, NUWHRAIN added.

Thus, a NUWHRAIN study showed that housekeepers with regular or permanent employment comprised only of less than 20 percent of the total number of housekeepers in all 5-star international hotel chains in Metro Manila.

Included in this global campaign are the demands for the ILO (International Labor Organization), the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), the national governments, and hotel companies to promptly address these issues and concerns of the housekeepers in the hospitality industry.

Foremost of these demands are the regularization of employment of housekeepers, strict observance of OSHS, wages and benefits befitting their permanent work status, clear measures to prevent sexual harassments in workplaces, among others.

NUWHRAIN is the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries, which is affiliated to the IUF, the APL or Alliance of Progressive Labor and the national labor center SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa). The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.



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