By Amy Ferguson
After yet another December of messed up sleeping patterns, long frantic work shifts, and 15-minute on-the-clock-meals, the idea of a relaxing January may be off the cards for a significant portion of hospitality workers. The industry has seen itself lurched by crises in recent years, from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, declining footfall due to the cost of living crises, and staffing shortages stemming from unsustainable pay and working conditions; many workers are living with the anxiety of financial instability and stress.
A recent Unite Hospitality survey of the working conditions of baristas – part of a new Baristas United campaign – found that 72% believed wages needed to be higher, 65% believed understaffing to be a vital issue in the workplace, and 49% identified the need to end zero-hour contracts as an urgent priority. It is likely that these issues are, unfortunately, relatable to those across the entire sector whether in bars, kitchens or hotels.
Another issue that, tragically, workers in the industry are united in experiencing is that of harassment. In an earlier survey, 9 in 10 hospitality workers reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. The inaction of employers and politicians on the question of harassment in hospitality venues has been eye opening.
Across the industry, workers are organising for and winning transformative demands.
Did you know, thanks to the hard work of hospitality workers in Unite, that in some councils in England and Scotland late-night venues must provide free transport home to staff in order to guarantee their license?
Did you know that in a bar in Sheffield, workers in the Bakers union fought for and won a 44% pay rise and an end to zero-hour contracts?
With such victories under the belt, and with the highest support for trade unions in decades, the future is looking bright with the potential for even greater change. However, such change won’t come about by magic, it can only be created by fellow workers in the industry joining their unions, talking to their coworkers about issues you want to see changed, and saying to greedy employers and careless politicians – enough is enough!