Unite writes to Executive Ministers to protest Economy Minister’s rush to reopen hospitality industry without effective infection control

neil mooreNo confidence in role of tourism working group – a business cabal composed overwhelmingly of bosses but excluding totally hospitality workers – to oversee workplace safety

Call for Northern Ireland to adopt ‘roving health and safety reps’ like Scotland and introduce limited reopening with continued pay guarantees for workers

Unite hospitality organiser Neil Moore explained that he had written to all the Northern Ireland Executive Ministers to protest today’s announcement by the Economy Minister to reopen hotels and other accommodation without any effective means of enforcement on basic infection controls.

“Far from being welcomed by hospitality workers, today’s announcement has caused widespread fear and concern among those who face the prospect of returning to work in unsafe working conditions. This decision appears driven by the need to secure the profits of the super-wealthy individuals who own much of the hospitality sector here rather than the concerns for workers or public health. It certainly isn’t to protect jobs – in the immediate aftermath of the announcement – workers in a number of large chains were warned of pending redundancies and attempts to impose contract changes to reduce pay and T&Cs.

“The tourism working group placed in charge of overseeing infection control measures is a business cabal composed overwhelmingly of business owners excluding any trade union or worker representation. It’s like leaving a fox in charge of the hen-house – workers will have absolutely no faith in their ability to oversee safe reopening.

“The move comes amid efforts by hospitality owners to reduce the two metre Covid social-distancing rule. The consequences of such a downgrading for workers and public health could be devastating – making likely a second peak and the need to revert to an economically-damaging second lock-down.

“Where operators have already reopened to provide a takeaway service demand is many multiples operating capacity, leaving workers facing pressures on one hand to meet unachievable order targets while on the other being threatened with punishment if they break social distancing rules. Bosses often point-blank refuse to provide Risk Assessments and many even engage with the union in any way whatsoever.

“Unite has written to all Executive Ministers to make explicit our objections to the Economy Minister’s decision. The Executive must commence meaningful consultation with workers representatives ahead of reopening.

“Unite is seeking the introduction of roving health and safety union reps that the Scotland government has introduced and has been legislated for in England & Wales. The two metre social distancing rule must be defended and effectively enforced. Where outlets reopen demand must be capped at a level coherent with the ability to deliver orders safely; workers partially employed should continue to be supported through a flexible furlough scheme guaranteeing their income”Neil Moore concluded.

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