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Australias Hospitality Union

LUXURY hotel workers will today launch a national campaign for better pay and conditions after an investigation revealed record injury rates and the highest staff turnover of any industry.

The year-long union investigation found the industry had the nation's worst injury rates for women, spiralling workloads, bullying and more low-paying jobs than any other sector.

Claiming the marble veneer of five-star hotels hides a "toxic formula", the union representing hotel employees said the crisis threatened the growth and reputation of Australian tourism.

Research by the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union said the luxury hotel sector suffered staff turnover levels of up to 48 per cent annually, record injury rates of almost 10 per cent and dangerous workloads.

LHMU national secretary Louise Tarrant said the problems threatened the growth and reputation of Australian tourism because while luxury hotels enjoyed unprecedented occupancy rates, they could not attract or retain workers. "Working in the laundries, bedrooms, kitchens and restaurants of luxury hotels is heavy and dangerous work," she said yesterday. "This year, one in 10 of Australia's 30,000 luxury hotels workers can expect to be injured at work."

The union estimates 80 to 85per cent of the workforce earns less than $30,000 annually, with many paid the minimum, and forced to work weekends to receive penalty rate shifts.

Ana, who has worked in the housekeeping department of a five-star Sydney hotel since 2000, said millions of dollars were spent by the hotels on refurbishment and advertising but not on improving working conditions.

"Promises are made but nothing is done and it seems our working conditions just continue to get worse," Ana, who declined to provide her surname, said.

Ms Tarrant, who was due to meet chief executives of leading hotels in Sydney last night, said a union rescue package included a push for improved pay, training and better career paths. For instance, if hotels increased their tariff rates by 1per cent, the additional revenue could translate into workers receiving an extra $20 to $30 a week, she said. "If we are not making progress ... we'll have to take our campaign to the streets to make our voices heard."

The Australian Hotels Association said employers were prepared to negotiate with the union to address labour and skill shortages. "Many of the issues ... are on our radar," said AHA national affairs director Bill Healey.

However, he said labour costs already contributed 35 to 40 per cent of hotel operating costs.

The industry was struggling to attract investment and any increased revenue from a rise in room rates was likely to be used to offset low capital returns rather than to lift wages. "Our high global wage-to-operating costs reduce a hotel's ability to address people shortages solely by increasing wages," he said.

"Consultation with the LHMU should identify better ways of meeting the needs of employees and increasing productivity."


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