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Hospitality industry 'not an attractive sector' for returning workers, Oireachtas committee hears

The Oireachtas committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media discussed the issue today.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY is “at rock bottom” in regard to working conditions, pay and workers’ rights, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

SIPTU representative Denis Hynes told the Oireachtas committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media that for many returning to work, hospitality “is not an attractive sector at the moment”.

He also said that there is “very little evidence” of a link between the staff shortages in the hospitality industry and the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP).

It comes as approximately 80% of employers in the tourism and hospitality industry have reported that they are struggling to hire staff.

As the hospitality sector reopened earlier this year, some employers pointed to the role of the PUP in causing staff shortages.

Hynes refuted this claim, pointing to figures from the CSO that showed that the PUP claimants had reduced from 112,000 in February of this year to 28,000 in September.

A line from Budget 2022 read yesterday by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath detailed that 115,000 workers who came off the PUP switched industry when they returned to employment.

The treatment of workers, staff shortages and issues of bullying and harassment were also raised throughout the hearing.

Speakers highlighted the case of an employee who was paid with a bucket of 5c coins by a Dublin restaurant last month as an example of an employer violating workers’ rights.

A survey from Unite found that 70% of workers in the hospitality and tourism industry have experienced bullying in the workplace and that 80% of workers stated that working in the industry had a negative impact on their mental health and well-being.

Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan called the figures “extremely concerning”.

The committee also heard that Ireland had the second-highest minimum wage in the European Union, and questions were raised about what more could be done for workers.

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But Julia Marciniak, Unite Hospitality and Tourism Coordinator said that the high cost of living means the minimum wage “is just way too low” for those who receive it.

She pointed to the example of workers paying rent of €800 a month for a room in Dublin while their maximum take-home pay was around €400 a week if they were on the minimum wage and working full-time.

Trade union representatives claimed at the committee that Ireland has some of the worst union rights in Europe and noted that employers do not have to recognise if their employee is a member of a union.

Dr Deirdre Curran, associate lecturer at NUIG, discussed research regarding the experience of hospitality workers, whom she stated didn’t know there were unions relevant to them and and were scared to speak out.

She also emphasised the importance of providing workers with representation as she stated that “giving workers a voice is good for business”.

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