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'It’s like they’re treated like slaves': Exploitation in the hospitality sector

Over 400 respond to workplace survey highlighting exploitation within the industry.

Image: Shutterstock/Sergei Domashenko

AN INVESTIGATION INTO how hospitality workers are being treated in the west has led to over 400 people coming forward to share their experiences.

Last month, TheJournal.ie ran an investigative piece which dealt with a number of abuses being suffered by staff in hotels and bars across the west with a particular focus on Galway.

Sinn Féín senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh launched a survey which attempted to highlight the difficulties facing workers in the sector. The results are expected to be revealed at the start of next month.

However, early indications have shown how the feedback was “bigger than expected” and a number of serious incidents like sexual assault and sexual harassment have been reported.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Ó Clochartaigh said: “We’ve had over 400 respondents all from the Galway area. The reaction has been much bigger than we anticipated and it appears there are issues across the board.

“There are some fairly serious allegations being made against a number of employers. There are accusations of sexual assault and harassment in the findings. There is also a huge underreporting of incidents. That seems to be a big problem,” he added.

Last month, employee advocate Eva Mitchell told TheJournal.ie how she had been gathering statements from workers in the hospitality industry who feel they have been unfairly treated.


Ó Clochartaigh, with the help of Mitchell and SIPTU, has sent out a survey to workers in the region asking them to share their experiences. SIPTU is supporting the initiative and will look to reorganise workers in the sector in the coming months.

“It’s come to the point where enough is enough. The hours are illegal under EU law a lot of the time, payslips and tips are being retained and the casual sexual harassment is now bordering on assault for some of the women working,” Mitchell told TheJournal.ie.

“I know everyone can have a bad experience with a boss or a personality clash. But it’s now got to the stage where most people I have spoken to have an issue with some aspect of their employment.

“If it’s not getting their tips, it’s something else like not getting a payslip. Then there are people who leave and who don’t get their holiday pay. There comes a point where you hear these horror stories and you just have to say no.

“I’m out of the industry now, so I won’t have to deal with situations like these. But frankly, a lot of people are being forced to work for free. It’s like they’re treated like slaves. It’s disgusting how some people are being treated.”

The public meeting which intends to reveal the results of the survey is to take place on 6 March at the Clayton Hotel in Ballybrit, Galway at 8pm.

TheJournal.ie will this week start looking at the problems which affect workers across a myriad of industries nationwide. It is our intention to highlight exploitation within industries which traditionally are not well-represented by unions. 

If you have been abused or mistreated at work and wish to get in touch, you can do so by emailing workersrights@thejournal.ie

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