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posted 4 Sept 2020, 09:14 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Sept 2020, 09:27 ]
Workers at the Hyatt Hotel continue to undergo pressure from the management of this foreign-run, though state-owned hotel. Workers in the housekeeping department complain that their lives have been
It came as no surprise to workers at the Hyatt Regency Hotel that one of their colleagues has tested positive for the Covid 19 virus and that five others have been tested and have been ordered to stay at home pending results. 

These workers are in the housekeeping department and are what can be classified as room attendants.
Before Covid 19 room attendants had to clean 17 rooms per day, regardless of the size of the rooms. 

When the first lockdown came this was reduced to five. During this lockdown period, the hotel was used to quarantine workers from energy companies who were off shift. 

At the beginning of August, the hotel was fully re-opened for business from the public and workers were assigned to clean ten rooms.

Workers have complained that they were not issued appropriate personal protective equipment. Standard operating procedures dictate that rooms are supposed to be rested for 48 hours before being put back into use, but this is not being adhered to and the rooms are not being rested. 

Guests are not required to wear masks and when the hotel began to be used for quarantine purposes the workers were not officially informed. 

Workers were never informed by management that their colleague had tested positive, but had to hear it through the grapevine. 
turned upside down since the onset of the Covid 19 epidemic, although they make it clear that working conditions before Covid were no beds of roses. (see sidebar)

Workers have complained that they are not issued appropriate personal protective equipment. They are issued masks and gloves, but they have to operate in their normal uniforms, which are highly inappropriate for sanitising the rooms as it is known that viruses tend to cling to clothes and hair. It is ironic that Hyatt’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) state: “It is imperative to wear PPE which limits the possibilities of contamination.”

The gloves are of poor quality and sizes are not optimal. The gloves are also rationed and not sufficient for the work load or the environment. Although Staff has asked for disinfectant for entering dirty rooms, management has turned down the request claiming it was too expensive; yet Hyatt’s standard operating procedures state that workers should “ensure room is properly disinfected and sanitised.”

The standard operating procedures call for a contactless guestroom stayover policy, unless the guest opts in for an agreed daily cleaning time, there is to be NO room cleaning service for 4 days and checked out rooms are to be rested for 48 hours. But management ignores its own SOPs and the rooms are not being rested. The duvet & mattress protectors are not being changed and are being used over & over. Guests are not required to wear masks and when the hotel began to be used for quarantine purposes the workers were not officially informed. 

Almost all room attendants have been on injury leave. It is well known that hotel housekeeping workers, like nursing personnel are susceptible to back injuries. Some workers did surgery; some even more than once and some are on injury leave for a long time. Hyatt refuses to consider light duty and regardless of how many suggestions have been put forward by staff for maintaining productivity while upholding safety protocols they have fallen on deaf ears. It is: do your job or else someone is going to replace you…that is what you get paid for!

During the lockdown, workers’ worked two or three days per week, but since the hotel re-opened fully they are rostered for 4 days per week. The hours of work have not been reduced but the first 3 months into the lockdown salaries were, despite government claims of paying full wages. Now attendants are working 8-5 or 10-7shifts (subject to change) and 4 days but if called upon to work the 5th day and the attendant doesn't show they will not be paid.

This approach makes it well near impossible for workers to plan off days with babysitters, family etc. If workers feel fatigued or their children fall sick they have to bring in a sick leave and fit for work even if it is for one day. Failure to do so results in loss of pay.

Many workers are worried that with their school age children being stuck at home; the management has not shown empathy and there is no attempt to facilitate flexibility in hours of work to facilitate workers with children.

Before Covid, there were no stable, spelt out working conditions, as one would have in a collective agreement. Out of a pre-Covid Housekeeping workforce of 46 full time and twelve what they call regular meaning they operate under fixed term contracts. Some of these so-called fixed term contract workers have been employed for more than ten years.

The Housekeeping workforce has been continuously reduced and workers are arbitrarily laid off/retrenched, sometimes with not even a notice in writing. The reduced housekeeping staff was already stretched to breaking point; you could imagine the position now.

Some workers have to renew contracts every year. The terms of the contract may be changed unilaterally and there is no uniformity of conditions applying to workers doing the same job; basic job descriptions may vary; wages for doing the same jobs may be different. Job evaluations are done and based on these, wage rates may change. So, instead of using appraisals as a tool for upgrading skills, correcting flaws and enhancing efficiency, they are used to discipline and victimise workers.

Although there are written down standard operating procedures and human resource manuals, workers claim that policies may change every Monday morning.

Workers have to earn points to be able to go on vacation. This puts them at the mercy of supervisors and can poison the work atmosphere because of favouritism and may lead to disunity and lack of solidarity in the workplace. If workers take one day’s sick leave, they have to present a doctor’s certificate. In order to qualify for vacation, leave they have to earn points which are calculated based on what management sees as mistakes made by workers.

One of the most grievous situations Housekeeping workers face is that service charge is not remitted to them, although it is charged to the guests.

Hyatt workers used to be in a pension plan, but the plan was discontinued in 2018 and up to now, all contributions have not been remitted. The workers are members of a medical plan, but, in their words, they have to jump through hoops to access their benefits. Hyatt even charges their workers for use of their car park. Mangers, of course, pay nothing.

To ensure that the rooms are spotless, supervisors are equipped with ultra violet lights which they use to inspect the rooms after workers have completed cleaning. Of course workers can lose points if the rooms are not properly cleaned, the strange thing is that the workers who do the actual cleaning are not equipped with the ultra violet lights.

There is a culture of “writing up” or as they say documenting workers for tasks that are not completed on time, regardless of the circumstances, and this documenting goes on the workers’ personnel files and are taken into consideration when evaluations are made.

Workers at Hyatt Regency are coming to the realisation that in a capitalist economy, the bosses regard them as no more than tools to be used, abused and discarded in the course of operations. More and more workers are coming to the conclusion that as difficult as the process of seeking to become unionised may be, they have to seriously organise themselves in order to defend their deteriorating quality of life and to maintain some modicum of self-respect and dignity.