Hotel workers sacked —
"It's a condition of sale", they said
Workers in Sydney's giant Wentworth Hotel took strike action last week when 20 of them were sacked as a prior condition of sale of the business. The Hotel's present owners, the property division of the stockbroking firm AXA, attempted to absolve themselves from responsibility for the dismissal by stating that it was a requirement of the new purchaser, City Freeholds. However, Mr Mark Boyd, the NSW Assistant Secretary of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union (LHMU), dismissed this as an excuse. He stated bitterly that the staff had worked extremely hard during the Olympics to make the accommodation of visitors a success, and in the process the hotel owners had reaped enormous profits. "Now hotel workers are being repaid for their hard work with this announcement of job losses. Twenty LHMU members were called in today and told to pack their bags", he said. Wentworth staff retaliated by holding a 24-hour strike and demonstrated outside the building. Ironically, the hotel was hosting a convention of the Australian Hotels Association. The sacking of large numbers of staff prior to sale of a business is becoming increasingly common. The process is similar in some respects to the transfer of staff to a shelf company in order to strip workers of their entitlements, because in both cases the companies concerned seek to absolve themselves for responsibility for their anti-employee action. With regard to the pre-sale sackings, the former managers and owners seek to avoid responsibility for their actions by blaming it on the new owners, and the new owners shrug their shoulders and say, "They did it, not us." In point of fact, however, the arrangement benefits both firms. The former owners can claim a higher price for having done the dirty work for the new owners, who in turn can immediately concentrate on super-exploiting a reduced workforce. The workers, of course, lose out.