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Ireland: Hotel workers in battle to defend minimum wage

20 February 2011 Urgent Action
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Members of the IUF's Irish affiliate SIPTU at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin have mounted protests after being taken off the roster for refusing to sign new contracts reducing their national minimum wage rate by almost €1 an hour.

The outgoing Irish Government  pressed through legislation allowing for the minimum wage to be reduced, but gave assurances that this could not happen without the consent of workers affected.

However, at the Davenport Hotel workers have been brought into three meetings over the past three weeks and repeatedly told they must sign the new contracts or face being taken off the roster. They were not given a copy of the new contract, either in English or in their own languages.

The women, who are from Lithuania and Poland and have worked as cleaners at the Davenport Hotel for between four and six years, refused to sign the new contracts on 1st February when the new legislation came into force and have been removed from the payroll ever since.  SIPTU served strike notice on the hotel on 9th February over the hotel’s decision which it regards as an effective lockout.

Although the dispute involves only five people it has implications for over 300,000 workers affected by the new National Minimum Wage legislation and related rates of pay in the hotels, contract cleaning, security and other low pay sectors.

SIPTU Vice President Patricia King said; “These workers were brought to a series of meetings where they were told they must agree to accept a reduction in pay from €8.65 an hour to €7.79 to ‘support the Government’. If they refused to do so they would be taken off the roster. The other workers, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers, signed the new contracts. Like the five women they were not given translations of the document or copies. I think it showed incredible courage by these women to take the stand they did.” Patricia King said. “Every employer in low wage sectors of the economy will be watching this dispute. If these workers are effectively locked out of their jobs and penalised for seeking to defend their right to the €8.65 rate it will signal a new race to the bottom.”

The Davenport Hotel is part of the O’Callaghan Hotel Group owned by Persian Properties and property developer, Noel O’Callaghan. Click here to send a message to the O’Callaghan group demanding that the workers are reinstated with no reduction in wages.