Frontline workers in bars, restaurants and hotels likely to be thrown into misery by latest closure, coming after months of reduced hours and being paid only 80 percent of an already low wage
Following today’s Executive announcement that hospitality businesses are to face takeaway-only restrictions or closure from Friday, Unite members working in hospitality issued a demand for a package guaranteeing full wage supports to be announced by the Stormont Executive.
Unite Hospitality organiser in Northern Ireland, Neil Moore, expressed his union’s dismay at today’s announcement and called for full wage supports.
“For the second time in six months hospitality workers have been hung out to dry. Many of our members were forced into debt during the previous period of closure when they received a bare 80% of what were already low wages. This pittance will force many more into poverty and struggling to put food on the table. We have had members on the phone today having to cancel fuel orders; worried about paying their mortgages; or rent never mind how they can deliver a Christmas for their kids.
“Our members made clear to us today that a rescue package must be put in place that focuses on workers – not simply employers. With the additional funding promised, Stormont must step up and do their part – that means a guarantee to properly support hospitality workers’ incomes. Our members can’t survive on a ‘portion’ of a minimum wage.
“Additional supports are also needed for the hospitality industry, made contingent on bosses keeping workers in jobs, protecting their full wage and preventing a round of hidden job losses through ‘redundancy by zero-hours’ or fire/rehire arrangements”, he said.
Jerry Maguire is a bar worker as well as a member of Unite, he spoke on the reality facing him as a hospitality worker.
“News of the closures has me and my colleagues deeply worried. So much was said by Stormont but with no clarity on what supports will be in place for workers. Bars will have to shut in less than 48 hours and we don’t know whether we will receive a wage or simply be out of work.
“We all understand these restrictions are very necessary to get this virus under control and protect public health. But our jobs shouldn’t be allowed to go to the wall as a result. I know many who have already lost their job and some who might not have one to go back to. The worrying question for me, is will I be next?
“If the money is there for businesses – why not for us? Workers do not care whether support comes from Stormont or Westminster. We aren’t interested in excuses, we need guarantees that we will still continue to receive our wages and that our jobs and skills are protected.”
Amy F., a Unite rep and barista expressed her concerns over the cumulative impact of Stormont’s repeated failure to protect hospitality workers’ wages.
“The politicians and employers spent the past year boasting about how we were the shining stars of the economy but now the second we need help, we’re as good as dirt. The reality is, I now have no income past next week. I’m not prepared for this.
“You can’t save for rainy days when you’ve spent most of the year on 80% of minimum wage and have already been struggling to meet bills. I’m sure I’m not the only one having to work out if I can afford food and heating bills. How can we spend in retail to keep the economy afloat when we’ve peanuts in the bank? And this is before I even think about Xmas”, she concluded.