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Hilton Hotel Leaves Workers High and Dry

A new Double Tree by Hilton hotel in Warsaw has left over 250 workers without any salary after a month of hard labour, exposing the highly exploitative practices of the international chain.

The workers involved were employed through and agency and were forced to work very long hours at the hotel. Typically they were made to work 12-14 hours a day, but some worked even as long as 22 hours – without a break. The cooks and waiters were on civil contracts instead of work contracts. After one month of work, the hotel refused to pay the agency.

As often happens in such cases, the hotel complained about the level of service. The workers had worked in different hotels servicing banquets, conferences, etc., without any complaints.

The workers had to buy their own clothing for work as Hilton did not provide uniforms. So the workers actually had to lay out money to work like slaves for the hotel giant.

The hotel later tried to explain this situation by complaining about the workers, although no complaints were made during the time they worked. The hotel issued a statement where it talked about how it cares about the „high quality of its services”, at the same time telling about how important outsourcing of work is in their business model. They write, „ As a responsible employer, we pay special attention to the question of equal treatment of everybody employed in our hotels... „

ZSP however points out that the workers in the hotel had their rights violated in numerous ways. Such working hours would not be allowed on employment contracts, breaks would need to be given and overtime paid. Civil contract employs doing the same job are denied overtime and have no benefits. One benefit which the workers should also have in this case is a uniform paid by the company and compensation for cleaning costs.

We maintain that companies like this really do not care about the high quality of services since they work people to death and do not offer paid sick leave. Lack of basic benefits like health care and sick leave means that many workers in the food industry may at some time have to come to work ill. This is no good for the workers, but also not good for the customers.

We criticize the business model used as using and throwing away people, not building up a staff that becomes involved with their work and workplace and which lend character to an establishment such as a hotel.

The union says that it will make some effort to contact these and similar workers with information about their rights and what they can do in such a situation.

„We understand that most of them have little imagination about what can be done, except to go to court,” comments one member of the Multi-Branch Union of ZSP in Warsaw. „And most of them will not even do that because they think it costs too much money and takes too long. And they are right since the legal system is a complete travesty of justice. But there is a lot that can be done against a business like this and we suppose it would be relatively easy to spoil the atmosphere at some corporate event at the hotel. Hopefully some of the workers will stand up and fight, breaking the cycle of hopelessness that so many people today in Poland are caught up in. If they want to fight, we can offer advice and support.”