October saw the launch of the Brighton Hospitality Workers, formed in response to the many workplace issues endured by SolFed members and their colleagues working in this sector, arguably the most exploitative in the city. BHW plans to bring hospitality workers into regular contact with one another to promote workers’ rights, solidarity and mutual support in this the most precarious and low paid of industries.

BHW has been approached by workers receiving cash-in-hand wages as little as £3 p/hour, working 10-hour shifts without breaks and being hired and fired at will. The initiative was launched with a poster campaign and visits to some of the most notorious employers, where contact was made with front-of-house and kitchen staff to discuss their rights at work and promote the benefits of organisation in combating illegal practice and poor pay and conditions.

Challenges that face organising in this sector include high staff turnover, workers’ lack of awareness of employment law and business owners eager to exploit a ready supply of labour, often immigrant, dependent on casual or precarious work to scrape by in one of the UK’s most expensive places to live. Another challenge - the constant presence of managers in most workplaces we visit – can, we believe, be turned into a strength where there are customers to inform and reputations at stake - in this sense the precariousness of a business becomes a potential weakness to organise around.

As well as meetings, BHW is keeping a record of bad practice through interviews with workers and will produce a map showing where the worst employers are and a Facebook page for sharing experiences. From a recent poster: 
                                                                                                                                                                    Do Do you work in hospitality? Bar, cafe, restaurant or hotel?
Issues in the workplace? Join Brighton Hospitality Workers

The hospitality industry in Brighton & Hove is notorious for long hours, low pay and precarious conditions. Common issues we’ve come across include:

Below minimum wage pay / Long shifts without breaks
No contract, written or verbal / Unpaid overtime
Unlawful deductions from wages / No holiday entitlement

Brighton Hospitality Workers is dedicated to organising around workplace rights and providing mutual support. We believe that by acting together workers who lack official representation can directly tackle issues and demand rights from management. We’re planning to arrange meetings where specific issues can be shared and collectively acted on.

If you’re a hospitality worker and interested in discussing a workplace issue or joining BHW – get in touch!    

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This article was published on 23 October 2013 by the SolFed group in Brighton. Other recent articles:

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