The pay and conditions of hospitality workers has hit “rock bottom” and people are afraid to speak out about it, an Oireachtas Committee has heard.
SIPTU organiser Denis Hynes told TDs and Senators that current labour shortages in the sector were not due to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, but rather as a result of poor pay and conditions for many workers.
“It’s not an attractive sector at the moment, it doesn’t appeal to people and people that came off the PUP are looking elsewhere for a job because of [the] experience”, he told the Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media.
Mr Hynes argued that Ireland was already facing labour shortages in the tourism and hospitality sector prior to the pandemic.
The Committee also heard from Dr Deirdre Curran, from the Cairnes School of Business and Economics at the National University of Ireland Galway, who carried out research towards the end of 2019 on the lived experience of those working in the sector.
She conducted an online survey of 257 people, carried out in-depth interviews with five workers and asked people to submit audio recording answering specific questions.
Dr Curran found that 63% witnessed or experienced bullying, 55% witnessed or experienced harassment, 77% experienced verbal abuse, 64% experienced psychological abuse, and 16% experienced physical abuse.
While acknowledging that the findings are concerning, she told politicians that it did not represent all employers.
Sinn Féin’s Imelda Munster called on the Committee to produce a report on the issues facing the hospitality sector.
Ms Munster also asked why there was low levels of union participation in the sector.
Dr Curran explained that her research found that most workers did not know that there were unions relevant to hospitality, they were afraid to speak out about their situation and many expressed apathy.
Denis Hynes of SIPTU said that he has seen workers from the sector join unions and that there are good employers and hotels where collective bargaining is recognised.
All witnesses agreed that collective bargaining is required and that Joint Labour Committees, comprising equal numbers of employer and worker representatives, could help address many of the issues facing the sector.