'Beautiful and absolutely secured'.. against unions - mass firings in response to union formation at Sheraton's upscale Algerian resort hotel

23.10.11 Urgent Action
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The only 5-star resort in Algeria, the luxury Sheraton Club des Pins in the capital Algiers invites the visitor to "reenergize at our pools and steam room before dining in our bayfront restaurants." Workers at the hotel have recently learned that 'absolutely secure' can mean secure against unions. Hundreds of employees who recently tried to form a union according to the legal procedure now find themselves out of work, victims of mass firings which have emptied the hotel of experienced personnel.

On June 26, some 300 workers, fed up with abusive conditions, signed a petition declaring their intention to register a union and elected a union committee of 5 employees to represent them. In accordance with the usual procedures, a founding assembly was scheduled to be held on September 15. Management was duly informed, but the workers received no response until September 13, when employees were informed that 3 of the elected delegates had been terminated and were barred from entering the hotel.

On September 15 -still waiting for a response to their demands - the workers learned that management had initiated legal proceedings against all 5 elected union delegates. In anger and frustration over this abusive and unlawful response to their legitimate demands, the workers initiated a protest action and strike which was followed by nearly all hotel employees.

Rather than seeking a negotiated solution to this conflict, management launched an escalating series of dismissals, further enflaming the situation. At the same time, selected employees were "reintegrated" in their positions after being required to sign a statement that they would refrain from all industrial action and abide by the latest rules of the establishment - a copy of which, however, they were not shown during these interviews.

While this was happening, workers were informed that they were required to furnish management with their names, addresses, badges and telephone numbers. After a delay of several weeks, workers are now being summoned to meetings with human resource managers and presented with notices of dismissal or fines, without warning, and statements in which they renounce their right to be accompanied and assisted by another colleague or by legal counsel (it goes without saying that they cannot be accompanied by a union representative, since their attempt to form a union was smashed!). After being confronted with documents in French which refer to laws they are unable to question, having been denied the possibility of legal or other advice or assistance, they are then presented with either notices of dismissal without compensation, or dismissal warnings. Hundreds of dismissed employees are still waiting to undergo this procedure, should they choose to return to work at the hotel which sacked them.

Communications from the IUF urging Sheraton to intervene to correct these abuses have gone unanswered. In response to a communication from our Norwegian affiliate Fellesforbundet, the human resources boss responsible for the region has replied that "all this is best handled at the local level"!

The "local level" has responded to Sheraton workers' attempt to exercise their basic rights with mass layoffs and mass intimidation. Corporate management must take action to ensure that all workers sacked for supporting a union are reinstated immediately and unconditionally, and workers are allowed to form a union to represent them.

Sheraton's parent Starwood Group, owner of the Four Points, W, aloft, Luxury Collection, Le Méridien, element and Westin brands, has long set the benchmark for global hotel chain profitability, regularly delivering 16% and higher returns to investors.

Algerian hotel workers have yet to see an 'Arab spring' - you can support their struggle. Click here to send a message to the local and regional corporate management, telling them to respect fundamental human and trade union rights!