Published: 25/05/2010

Trade unions from around the world have called on the French-based Accor Group to immediately enter into negotiations to redefine the scope and content of the international trade union rights agreement signed with the IUF in 1995. The call came from the IUF’s annual global meeting of member unions in the hospitality, tourism and catering sectors, which was held in Ankara, Turkey May 17-18. Accor’s brands include Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, ibis, all seasons, Etap Hotel/Formule1 and Motel6.

By signing the agreement, Accor committed “not to oppose efforts to unionize its employees.” Implementing the agreement however has not passed without conflict – notably in Indonesia, the United States and most recently Canada, where workers at three Accor hotels have faced intense employer opposition to their efforts to organize a union. Despite language in the international agreement which specifically protects employees “against all acts of discrimination that tend to violate freedom of association” and guarantees “the protection of employee representatives against any measures that could harm them”, union activists at these hotels have been dismissed and workers pressured to vote ‘no’ in a union election.

Difficulties have been exacerbated by important changes in the structure of Accor’s business, which has shifted dramatically from direct ownership of hotel properties towards franchising and management contracts. As a result, increasing numbers of workers employed in Accor-branded hotels are not directly employed by the company. The international agreement needs to be updated to reflect these changes and ensure that it applies to all those working in a hotel operating under the Accor brand name, regardless of ownership status.

Pressure on hotel employees will intensify with Accor’s plan to split (“demerge”) the hotels business from its service voucher operations in June this year, which will further accelerate the sale of hotel properties and the move away from direct employment. The IUF has examined the financial, operational and employment implications of the split in “Demerging Accor – Less than the Sum of the Parts?” on the IUF’s Private Equity Buyout Watch.

According to IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald, “Strengthening the provisions of the international agreement with the IUF would send a clear message that the company respects freedom of association and collective bargaining, and is committed to ensuring that workers in all Accor-branded hotels are free to exercise their right to organize.”