Workers will not be used as a bargaining chip by politicians or indeed hospitality bosses who had publicly announced that they would open their doors regardless of any decision by Stormont on Coronavirus infection control.

The last few days have demonstrated publicly the inability of the Stormont Executive to agree a public health centred approach but this is no excuse for any boss to put workers’ lives at risk. Attempts to use the widespread anger at the Executives paralysis to justify a threat to workers’ safety are completely unacceptable. Hospitality workers will not be used as a bargaining chip or political football by bosses or politicians.

Reopening at a time when the Chief Medical Officer is recommending hospitality workplaces remain closed is a cause of concern to our members. Bosses should know that Unite will continue to defend the right of any worker who feels it necessary to remove themselves from an unsafe working environment because of health and safety concerns.

It’s galling for many of our members to see some of the wealthiest hospitality bosses beat their chests and say they are motivated by concerns for their staff when they have needlessly laid-off workers and refused to top up wages. We demand action to end the growing trend for hospitality workers to be employed on precarious terms. The prevalence of zero-hours contracts which means even with a premature reopening many workers would face cutbacks to hours and a significant reduction in income. Once again we are demanding that Stormont urgently intervenes with a rescue plan for hospitality workers which tackles these precarious and exploitative practices by bosses and guarantees workers a wage they can live on.

Unite hospitality supports a safe, phased and well-notified reopening of our industry. We note the Economy Minister’s proposal for a ‘safe working group’, to date we have not received our invitation. Any discussion around safe reopening must involve workers and their unions. We condemn any attempts by bosses now or in the future to illegally reopen, our members understand well that the protection of public health is the priority, however, if they can’t work they must be paid and their jobs must be secured.

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