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‘What is Trade Union about?’ Someone asked a while ago. According to Wikipedia, it is a group of workers ‘who have come together to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of its trade, improving safety standards, achieving higher pay and benefits such as health care and retirement, increasing the number of employees an employer assigns to complete the work, and better working conditions.’ Understanding what the union stands for may help to improve the relationship between hotel management and our National Union of Hotel and Personal Services Workers (NUHPSW).

 

It is either your hotel is unionized or un-unionized but whichever group you find your hotel, you will be having a conversation with the Trade Union. Gone are the days when hotel workers did not have a say because they were considered ‘unskilled worker’. The NUHPSW is a recognised body and has been involved in many hotel strike actions in the country. It is common to have un-unionised hotels ignore the advances made by NUHPSW and this usually results in aggressive approaches to strike actions. It is advisable to ask why they want to exist in your hotel and proactively find ways to resolve the issues. The hotel should have an HR manager conversant with the labour law and if affordable, a labour lawyer. Issues with union have to be managed carefully as a lot has to do with negotiations and collective bargaining.

 

What causes strike actions? Most of the time, it has to do with a bad relationship between the management and the employees. This can be difficult but it is better for the management to have a cordial relationship with its employees and union representatives. Endeavour to carry your employees along and get them to trust the Hotel Manager and the departmental managers. Poor leadership and unfair working environment will get Union representatives knocking on your door. Some hotel managers actually know the right thing to do but simply refuse to do it. The management sometimes claim to want to instil discipline or cut cost and make very unfair decision. When it comes to reducing overheads, remember that some of hotel employees have access to your financial books and will tell many other ways of reducing overheads apart from taking it out on the employees

 

How can you manage your staff in Union-related cases? The Lawyer's Chronicle recommends that management should not 'SPIT' on their employees

S –put under SURVEILLANCE

P - make PROMISES you won’t keep

I – INTERROGATE

T – THREATEN the employee

 

Management should learn to really listen to their employees, discuss issues and proactively resolve them. The HR manager should remember the he or she is the middleman and must not take sides but must work with ‘problem resolution’ at the back of his or her mind. Find out what other unionized hotels are doing well, do the same or even better if you can afford it to make your staff happy and committed.

 

Some Union employees see the union as an avenue disregard hotel policies and management and this is very wrong. In some cases, the union members do ask for ridiculous demands such as making all temporary employees permanent after one year of service not wondering how that will affect the books and the hotel’s profitability. Some others, in the name of protesting, destroy hotel property, physically assault managers and any other employee who does not want to join in the demonstration. There are cases where the guests were actually shouted out and this is very unprofessional. NUHPSW is an organisation and there are proper ways to resolve conflicts.

 

Inability to maintain a cordial relationship between the hotel management and NUHPSW will certainly result in loss of property, brand image, revenue and employee loyalty as well as guest dissatisfaction.

 

Sources:

The Lawyer's Chronicle

Cornell School of Hotel Admistration on Hospitality

Wikipedia

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