Union Recognition in Hotels

Recognition: the only sure way to get full benefit of union membership!

Many hotel workers join the union because they want some personal insurance and back up if they run into problems at work. But there are limitations to what the union can do and when it is not officially recognised by their employer.

The union is a collective organisation of workers. While there are individual services and benefits linked to union membership these are secondary to our main objective of protecting and advancing the interest of ordinary working people. We need to be able to put members on an equal footing in terms of power and influence to that of their employer.

We do this by building workplace organisation and winning formal recognition in the workplace. This means that we can seek improvements in pay and conditions as well as ensuring that people are treated with fairness, dignity and respect. In this way members enjoy the real benefit of their membership through concrete improvements in their working lives.

Workplace Union Reps.

Formal recognition of the union in your hotel would allow us to appoint workplace Union Reps. These include Shop Stewards responsible for negotiations and for representing members in grievance and discipline hearings.

Safety Reps, who have responsibility to ensure that employers are applying a proper health and safety policy.

Learner Reps,Learner Reps, who help members make the most of training and education opportunities.

Appointed Union Reps, have the legal right to paid time off to carry out their duties at work and paid release from work to attend union courses.

Reasonable facilities must be provided in the workplace for Reps to conduct their business on a day to day basis.

It is illegal for an employer to victimise or unfairly dismiss a Union Rep. Stiff penalties apply to employers who attempt any form of victimisation.

Union Reps are accountable to the members they represent and are subject to a democratic election every two years.

A Workers's Agenda 

In a non-unionised Hotel the terms and conditions of employment, along with procedures for dealing with disciplines, grievances, bullying, equality and health and safety are all decided upon by the employer. This is a very one sided arrangement. While the staff may have come minimal input via consultative forums there are no real negotiations and there is no real obligation on the employer to reach an agreement with staff representatives.

Union Recognition places an obligation on both sides to try and reach an agreement on such issues through a genuine negotiating process. From the union point of view this involves allowing workers to vote on whether to accept any changes before a final agreement is signed. This is clearly a much fairer and open approach to the method Hotel’s have become accustomed to in the past.

Our objectives in any negotiations with an employer will also be set by open and democratic discussions with members. The type of issues we would be pursuing with an employer on behalf of members would include:

  • The pay rate for different job categories.

  • The value of the annual pay increase

  • Improvements to  holiday and sick pay schemes.

  • Hours of work and over-time rates.

  • Pensions.

  • Employees benefits.

We would also be engaged in dialogue and negotiations around a whole range of other issues including equal opportunity, health and safety, training, parental leave etc.

Some employers see all of this as a challenge to their authority rather than a positive step forward. Such employers usually try various tactics to convince their staff that they are better off without a union as an outside third party that would interfere in their otherwise good relationship with staff. Suggesting that all union is interested in is collecting union dues rather than representing staff interests. Telling people that the union wouldn’ t be able to change anything even if it was recognised. Promising that big improvements are the way so no-one really needs the union to get involved.

Beware of these tactics. They are designed to undermine your confidence in yourself and the union so that your employer can maintain the upper hand. In truth they are based on outdated ideas that have no place in a modern workplace.

The Legal Right to Recognition

The law says that where the majority of workers in a Hotel support union recognition their employer must sign an agreement with the union to negotiate on pay and conditions.

A majority is demonstrated by over 50% of staff being members or by a majority of staff voting in a secret ballot.

Where the union has submitted a formal claim for recognition the employer must give the union access to the Hotel to talk to staff.

It is illegal for an employer to dismiss or victimise any employee who actively campaigns for the union to be recognised.

An employer can be ordered by the Central Arbitration Committee to sign a recognition agreement where a majority of staff support the union.

While the Union has used the legal route to win formal recognition in a number of workplaces we prefer to establish recognition agreements with employers on a voluntary basis.

We find that most reasonable employers also prefer to enter into voluntary agreements.