Brighton Hospitality Workers is a campaign against casualisation and for a culture of solidarity among hospitality workers. Whether it's outstanding pay, dangerous working conditions or sexism, we offer practical support to hospitality workers wanting to organise and stand up to their bosses.

 

History

In October 2013 we started organising in the city’s hospitality sector. We wanted to establish an anarcho-syndicalist presence in workplaces such as restaurants, cafes, pubs, hotels. Our aims : to improve working conditions, and to create a community of solidarity and resistance among Brighton's hospitality workers - especially those facing the worst exploitation.

A lot of obstacles we came up against were the result of casualisation. The instability of the sector, the atmosphere of resignation, and the personal circumstances of the workers (migrant workers, young people, part-time students) made it hard to establish solid groups of organised workers inside their workplaces.

As a result, we started a campaign fighting the hospitality sector's bad working conditions from outside of workplaces , so as to support independent organisation of workers inside. In this campaign we had the advantage that Brighton is a relatively small city. The publicity on the streets has a big impact, as well as the connections we had with migrant workers.

Many of the disputes are essentially about former workers asking to be paid what they were owed and are therefore somewhat limited in their scope. However our small local has already made a considerable impact in the industry. We have also gained valuable experience from taking action on our own terms, and we show that direct action methods  are highly effective in the hospitality sector. As more workers get involved and take action, we ultimately would like the campaign to develop into a local anarcho-syndicalist union.

We are neither professionals nor a charity, just workers who want to help other workers, and who expect to be helped by other workers. We encourage all workers who approach us to get involved and contribute their views so that we can improve and develop through a collective process of activity and discussion.

Disputes

  • June 2016: A cafe in Lewes Road, paid one of its former workers after having been contacted by SolFed. She was accused of stealing money from the till without any proofs and was harassed by the manager and owner of the business, leaving her no other choice than to leave the workplace

  • November 2015: A cleaning company paid one of its former workers after having been contacted by SolFed. The company had taken the cleaning service of Pure Gym after being transferred from the previous owner of the gym, L.A. Fitness. Breaking the promise made to the workers and the regulations on transferring business (TUPE), Emprise neither respected the previous terms and conditions in the new contracts nor did they take charge of the debts of the previous employer

  • September 2015: A few weeks ago, a worker came to us with a dispute over an employer withholding Statutory Sick Pay, notice period pay and outstanding holiday entitlement owed to her. Fortunately, through the courage and honesty of the worker and our insistence on sidestepping the nonsense and sticking to facts, we were able to negotiate a compensation of £360 agreeable to all involved.

  • September 2015: A former chef terminated his employment after being pressured by his manager to go to work when he was sick, which resulted in him being removed from the work rota and the payroll system. Then, the worker was owed part of his wage including unpaid hours, holiday entitlement and notice pay. After 2 months, enough was enough, action was needed. A public campaign was started, initiating with a call out for a communication campaign to get Proud to pay and inform the public of how the worker had been treated. This affected both the London and Brighton branch of Proud. Due to various complications the worker decided to accept a lower amount to be able to move on with their life bearing in mind it was 4 months until the dispute was over.

  • August 2015: A worker from a multinational fast food restaurant operating in central Brighton, was fired (or as the company put it: had her working hours reduced to zero) after going on a company-sanctioned holiday break. The worker approached us and presented her case in our drop-in session, and Brighton SolFed decided to support the dispute. Having left the job, the demand was for outstanding wages, unpaid holidays and a week of notice pay. On the very same day the demand letter was handed in, the worker was notified that an envelop awaited her at her former workplace. Every single demand was met, with the worker receiving all the money she was owned.

  • August 2015: We were contacted by a worker who told us that his employer - a multinacional cleaning service provider - owed him about 150 hours in unpaid wages and holidays. The fact that this was a part-time, low-paid job made the situation for the worker quite difficult, as he depended solely on this job to make ends meet. We assisted the worker with related calculations, letter-writing and contacting his employer. After a long wait, the worker was finally paid what he was owned.

  • July 2015: Brighton Hospitality Workers was approached by a Kitchen Porter, at an upmarket and busy restaurant on the seafront, who had been laid off without 7 days’ notice period pay and with unpaid wages and holiday entitlement.  A demand letter was drafted, including a deadline after which we’d take further collective action. Claim and counter-claim were made by email and during this exchange the worker provided proofs and stood firm by his demand despite attempts by the boss to discredit it. The worker eventually accepted an offer that was £50 less than his original demand, calling this a partial victory.

  • June 2015: A former waiter was paid £2000 after just a single picket. The restaurant in which he used to work decided to claim insolvency and closed. The worker was not given a penny for his last month’s wages, holiday entitlement for that year and gratuities owed over the whole employment. Upon contacting the insolvency services the worker found out the company had not been declared insolvent. So we started the campaign against other resturants of the same company.

  • May 2015: Brighton Hospitality Workers was approached in May by a Kitchen Porter, at an upmarket and busy restaurant on the seafront, who had been laid off without 7 days’ notice period pay and with unpaid wages and holiday entitlement. A demand letter was drafted, including a deadline after which we’d take further collective action, and 2 comrades supported the worker to deliver this to the boss. Claim and counter-claim were made by email and during this ex-change the worker provided proofs and stood firm by his demand despite attempts by the boss to discredit it. The worker eventually accepted an offer that was £50 less than his original demand, calling this a partial victory and preferable to a potentially long-running conflict over the stolen £50.

  • May 2015: A restaurant in the Lanes pays over £300 to a former kitchen porter with regards to holiday entitlement - two days after we hand them a demand letter

  • April 2015: After nearly five months, our dispute with a cafe in George St., Hove ends

  • March 2015: After just one single picket held on St Patrick's day, a pub in the Western Road area paid a former worker over £700 in holiday entitlement and notice period. The worker had been fired on the spot and the company refused to pay him for one week's of notice period and ignored having to give him any holiday pay for the time he had worked there.

  • Feb 2015: a Hanover pub pays two kitchen porters a total of £640 owed and their p45 - after a Valentine's day picket saw more protesters outside the pub than patrons inside, with numerous couples deciding to take their custom somewhere else in solidarity

  • Feb 2015:  two workers from a seafront fast food restaurant win back £560 total in unpaid wages and holiday entitlement

  • Dec 2014: on Christmas eve, an employment agency promises to give a worker £115 in owed wages and their P45 after we hand over a demand letter

  • Dec 2014: a Hove restaurant pays a worker £340 in owed wages before the dispute goes public

  • August 2014: after several weeks of picketing, a cafe finally pays two workers £450 and £550, and promises them their p45 - one of our longest, and most satisfying disputes, involving the typical characteristics of our disputes : sexism, exploitation of migrant workers, a pigheaded boss, and a final decisive victory by the Brighton Hospitality Workers (see video clip below).

  • July 2014 : a restaurant in the Lanes gives a worker £2000. Although a large amount, it was only a fraction of what they owed him following years of below-minimum wage pay and refusing holiday entitlement. Worried about their dodgy practices getting out, they decided to give in before the dispute went public.
  • May 2014 : a former cashier on a zero-hours contract received £1,250 in unpaid wages and holiday entitlement - just minutes before we were going to start picketing.

  • April 2014 : Two outsourced hotel cleaners were owed a total of £466 in holiday pay. The company pays up after we held a single 30 min picket, avoiding further damage to their reputation.
  • Feb 2014 : 3 cleaners with same agency win owed wages and holiday pay after sending demand letters - for a total of £893.

 

The following video clip documents a dispute with a cafe during the summer of 2014