"We won because we're union"
A group of low-paid hotel room attendants have won a swift and significant victory by sticking together and telling the management at the Crest Hotel, in Sydney's Kings Cross, they wouldn't be kicked around. "We won because we're union", said Carmen Rojas, the LHMU Hotel Union delegate. "The hotel didn't show us respect when they gave us a take-it-or-leave-it letter telling us they wanted us to transfer from direct employment at the Crest Hotel to work with an outside cleaning contractor." The Crest Hotel room attendants — most of whom are on a minimum wage of $12 an hour — all walked out last week, and started to picket their Darlinghurst Road employer. (The hotel is known for its exclusive Korean-style Ginseng Bathhouse, including a 75-minute Shiatsu massage, skin scrub and facials for $126 a time!) "I think the management got a bit of a shock when they saw that all their workers were prepared to stick together", said Carmen Rojas The picket hadn't been in place for long when the management acknowledged they were in the wrong, said LHMU Hotel Organiser, Rebecca Reilly. "We have a signed letter from the hotel saying they have backed down from their plan to outsource the room attendants' work, acknowledging they had not properly consulted the workforce on these plans." The workers were also angry that they had been handed work contracts for the outsourcing that most of them could not read or understand. "Many of these workers can't read or speak English — most are from Korea — but they have been handed English-only letters telling them the hotel doesn't want to employ them any more", said Ms Reilly. The letter said that if they didn't sign they would be out of a job by 5.30 that day. The cleaning company Australian Housekeeping Systems (AHS) had been given a contract at the Crest Hotel but none of the union members wanted their employment status transferred from direct employment to a contract cleaning tenderer. Ms Reilly explained that the Crest Hotel room attendants are expected to clean 18 rooms a day, while the hotel industry room norm in Sydney is between 12-14 rooms a day. "They have been exploited already — and they were afraid they would be exploited further by the outside contractor." Another group of LHMU Hotel Union members at the Harbour View Hotel in North Sydney are battling a similar proposal to transfer room attendants' jobs from direct employment to the same outside contractor, AHS. "Our members in North Sydney are just as angry as our Kings Cross membership. They will be heartened by this win and are expected to discuss this victory at union meetings." The Crest Hotel workers celebrated their victory at the union's annual end- of-year get-together last Friday.