Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unions in Hotels – Have They Outlived Their Usefulness?

There was a time when Unions were needed, in our industry, as they were in so many others.

I can’t argue that point.  Workers were taken advantage of, perhaps even abused if we go back far enough, and many of them feared that they could lose their job at any time.

Not a pretty picture, and certainly not an environment that anyone should have to be subjected to.

Thankfully, our industry and many others have improved significantly over the years, and employers have come to truly value their employees and recognize them for the contribution that they make to their businesses’ success, every day.

And I would not be fair if I did not recognize the significant impact that Unions have had in improving working conditions for employees.  They deserve a great deal of credit for having originally taken up the cause of poorly treated, vulnerable individuals.

I don’t question the impact that Unions have historically had in improving working conditions for employees, but I do question whether or not they continue to serve the very employees that they claim to be representing.

Case in point.

Earlier this week, I was giving a presentation on labour relations to a group of 3rd year hospitality degree students, and when I was done, one of the students approached me and asked me how their Union, (UNITE HERE! Local 40), could be working so hard to drive business away from their Hotel?

What was this student talking about?

UNITE HERE! Local 40 has launched a campaign to boycott Hyatt Hotels, and specifically, the Hyatt Hotel in Vancouver where this student is employed, and this student and Hyatt employee has seen the cancellations coming in as a result.

And as a result of these cancellations, this employee and others have seen their hours reduced and they are concerned that there will be further reductions to their hours if business levels continue to decline as a result of a continued emphasis on boycotts.

So, who wins if the Union is successful in driving business away from this Hotel?  

Certainly not the employees, and isn’t that who the Union is supposed to be looking out for?

When did the Union begin to lose sight of their intended purpose in favour of their insatiable quest for power, and increasing revenues?  (Their increasing revenues I might add, NOT the Hotels).

I can tell you first hand that this employee who spoke to me was very, very concerned about what would happen if business continued to decline.  Not surprisingly, concerns centred around the ability to continue to meet expenses, buy groceries, pay rent and the like.

These are REAL concerns from REAL people and these should be the concerns of any responsible Union - how to maximize the benefit to the employees, the same employees who are diligently paying their Union dues in the hope that their Union representatives are working on THEIR behalf.

Unfortunately, the Unions have lost sight of their true purpose.  They are no longer in touch with the line employees who make their cushie jobs possible.  

They are, instead, intoxicated by their own sense of self-importance, their search for the next “stunt” to draw sensational headlines and photo ops.

Their tactics are outdated and self-serving, and do NOTHING to help the employees’ cause, so what’s the point?

Is there any argument that Unions have outlived their usefulness? 

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  1. Why was the union boycotting the Hyatt? And was this the Hyatt's union? Now I'm curious. Great post once again!

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