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Part 3: Hotel and hospitality work

Box 3: A Worker’s Profile Dorota was born in Poland, was aged 47 and came to the UK in 2001. Before moving to London she was employed in the army and she was motivated to migrate because, in her words, ‘London is a multicultural city.’ Once in London, she found accommodation in Brixton, where she lived alone and found employment through her social networks as a maid in a luxury hotel. She was not paid per hour, but per room, at £2.65 a room. On a busy day she might manage to make-up a total of 14 rooms, which pays her £37.10/day. However, on a typical day she makes up an average of only 6 rooms: paying £15.90/day. This is prior to tax and National Insurance deductions. Dorota also worked for two hours every day cleaning offices, for which she was paid £5.25 per hour. Like most respondents, Dorota contributed towards tax and National Insurance, but she only received 5 days paid holiday and had never had a pay rise. Neither did she claim any benefits that are available to help people on low incomes. She disliked the pressurised nature of the job, particularly during busy periods, yet she also felt that it was a good way to make money and claimed that she used part of her income to send remittances to relatives abroad.

In contrast to office cleaning and cleaning on the Underground, work in the hotel and hospitality sector was dominated by an equal proportion of migrants from Eastern Europe and Africa (27.5% in each case). In turn, most Eastern European workers were from Poland (11 respondents), followed by workers from Lithuania (5 respondents). From among the African countries, Ghana contributed the highest number of workers. Reflecting this distribution, and in contrast to the other sectors surveyed, the largest ethnic group was that of non-British Whites, who made up two-fifths of the sampled population, followed by nearly one quarter (24%) who were Black Africans.

Respondents primarily used their social networks of friends and relatives to find out about their job (three-quarters), whilst 13% made use of adverts.

As with office cleaning and cleaning on the Underground, subcontracting also emerged as a key theme. In particular, there were significant differences in the pay and conditions of ‘in-house’ staff and agency staff. For instance, one agency paid their Polish workers who were working in a luxury hotel in West London a piece rate of £1.70 per room. This was the lowest rate amongst those interviewed and was in stark contrast to the wages paid to in-house staff in similar hotels, which ranged from £4.85 to £5.20 per hour.

Agency workers in general also received no sick pay or paid holidays, nor were they paid for staying over to finish the heavy workload of up to 15 rooms that have to be cleaned in a day. Not surprisingly, then, high labour turnover was a key feature of this sector. Over one half (51%) of all workers in hotel and hospitality had been with their current employer for just 12 months or less, which is the highest proportion of all sectors. It is also likely that the increase in the use of low-paid agency workers which we identified in a number of the hotels will lead to the erosion of the benefits enjoyed by ‘in house’ staff over time.

Significantly, workers in this sector experienced the lowest rates of pay. Table 12 clearly shows the concentration of earnings at the lower end of the pay scale. Largely because workers were paid per cleaned room, more workers in this sector than anywhere else (17%) earned below the NMW (the equivalent of less than £9,079 a


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