PH unions support campaign of workers in Hyatt hotels in US; recall same plight of workers in closed Hyatt Regency Manila

TRADE unions and other organizations picketed today the Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila in the Malate area to air their support to the global campaign to boycott the Hyatt chain of hotels prompted by the rampant abuses against the workers in several Hyatt hotels in the US, even as they recall the almost similar plight suffered by the workers in the shuttered Hyatt Regency Manila.

Branded as America’s “worst employer in the national hotel industry,” Hyatt is accused of “replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers and imposing dangerous workloads on those who remain,” adding that “Hyatt housekeepers have high rates of injury.”

What incited the Hyatt workers, after years of silence, to finally confront their employer was when all the housekeepers at three non-unionized Hyatt hotels in Boston, Massachusetts – Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge, Hyatt Harborside – were arbitrarily fired (with no advance notice) and replaced by temporary workers on August 31, 2009.

Called “The Hyatt 100,” the dismissed workers – some of them had worked for Hyatt for over 20 years – earned widespread support from the public and civil society organizations, led by the unions, and even from various religious groups, politicians and businesses.

The Boston protests may have inspired workers in other Hyatt hotels in the US to later raise their grievances and assert their rights, including those in Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; San Antonio, Texas; Scottsdale, Arizona; Santa Clara, San Francisco and Long Beach in California; and Seattle, Washington.

The website explained that Hyatt’s subcontracting is actually “destroying good jobs and exploiting immigrant workers,” who are either deceived or forced to take jobs with much lower pay and without security of tenure.

It added that Hyatt housekeeping staffs comprise one of the most abused hotel workers in the US. For instance, they had the highest injury rate among housekeepers, according to a study – on 50 hotel facilities from five different hotel firms – published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Housekeepers or room attendants at some Hyatts have also excessive workloads as they have to clean as many as 30 rooms a day or “as little as 15 minutes” per room. Violations of occupational safety and health standards are also increasing; thus, last year, 11 Hyatt hotels were slapped with 18 citations, and three against one of Hyatt’s housekeeping subcontractors.

Likewise, Hyatt is said to have led the moves to oppose the bill in the US Congress that would have end the inhuman “‘on our knees’ bathroom cleaning and backbreaking bed-making practices.”

Several Hyatt hotels have also blatantly intervened in blocking the formation of local unions; and last year a Hyatt manager was accused of turning heat lamps “during a brutal heat wave” on striking Hyatt workers in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (Nuwhrain-APL-IUF), the lead organization in the picket in front of the Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila, reaffirmed its “solidarity with the workers of Hyatt in the United States and elsewhere in the world who have suffered and continued to suffer from many forms of exploitation and abuses perpetrated by the hotel brands under the Hyatt Corporation.”

Nuwhrain-APL, an affiliate of the IUF, the biggest global federation of unions in the hotel and related industries, said that it could very much relate to the “Hyatt issue” as one of its former local members was the incumbent union in Hyatt Regency Manila until it “suspiciously closed” in 2007.

“The sudden closure of Hyatt Regency Manila reeks of deception and machination since it was not really because of bankruptcy but to avoid its obligation with the workers when they won their unfair labor practices case filed in the National Labor Relations Commission and the Court of Appeals,” Edwin Bustillos, Samahang Manggagawa sa Hyatt (Samasah) president, said.

Prior to this, Hyatt, through the Hotel Enterprises of the Philippines Inc. (HEPI), illegally sacked employees, mostly regular and union members, thus they are eligible either to return to work or payment of both separation and retirement benefits provided by law and the then existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA), Bustillos clarified.

In hindsight, the Alliance of Progressive Labor added, what happened in Hyatt Regency Manila was a classic tactic of union-busting.

Nuwhrain argued that the Hyatt Corp., as the brand owner, is as guilty as HEPI not only for failing to prevent the mass dismissal and for the continued non-implementation of the court orders, but as proven also by its later actions like what is happening in Hyatt hotels now in the US.

Started in 1957, the Chicago-based Hyatt Corporation has currently more than 430 hotel brands worldwide, including Park Hyatt, Andaz hotel, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place, Hyatt house, Hyatt Resort and Hyatt Vacation Club. Grand Hyatt Manila, a 66-storey mixed-use hotel and office tower, is also being built in Taguig City.

Nuwhrain and APL are also members of the newly established labor center, the Sentro ng mga Progresibong Manggagawa or Sentro.

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