Unite National Hospitality Combine Election 2022
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But first, please read the following statements from those members who have put themselves forward for the role:
Click on their name to read their statement
My name is Sallie and I’ve been a hospitality worker since I was 13 years old, nearly 24 years, on and off! I first became activated as an activist while working at TGI Friday’s. We were told at 5pm on a Friday that as of the following Monday, we would be losing 40% of our tips. These tips were diverted to the kitchen staff, with the company citing “fairness” as a reason for the change. It became clear to us very quickly through conversations with the kitchen staff that they were given the 40% in lieu of the pay rise they had been asking for for several years.
Over the 2-year campaign we balloted 5 stores across two separate ballots and took strike action across multiple different dates in what was an empowering summer of strikes. It was the first of its kind in hospitality and ran alongside the McStrike Campaign, fighting for justice for fast food workers. From visiting other TGI stores to recruit and spread awareness, organising national and workplace WhatsApp groups that reached every single store in the UK, gathering evidence and sending out member updates I, among a few others, were the core of the organising team for this campaign.
It was during this campaign, that I was compiling spreadsheets full of data on workplace density and creating and maintaining the “Tips Tracker” to follow the real term financial losses me and my colleagues were facing. In addition to factual data gathering I was also involved in active campaigning that included creating graphics and other resources to support campaigning on the ground.
A significant amount of my employment history was in hospitality I realised that to better support our members as a lay rep I would need to re-enter education to develop my own skills. In 2018 I started an Access to IT course, this qualification ignited, in my mind, the possibility of technology within Unions, and more specifically how Unite Hospitality could utilise it better. With the agreement of The Combine we are now moving forward to build a Web App that we hope will be a powerful tool to assist members and organisers as they navigate through their campaigns.
I am proud to have been elected for a 2nd term as Branch Secretary for the London & Eastern Hotel Branch of Unite, where we continue to fight back using the Fair Hospitality Charter to identify issues and solutions as well as making sure our members are represented when going into disciplinary and appeal hearings. I have built membership across multiple different hotels including Firmdale and Four Seasons while taking on additional work with the Carluccio’s campaign to assist the Bar & Restaurant Branch and the wider hospitality movement.
During my time with Unite as a lead activist, and then as an elected official, it has become clear where our strengths and weaknesses are. We draw from the experience of workers, members and Unite officials to organise tactics and funding, always making sure that we are adapting to the fast paced and ever-changing environment that is hospitality. It is a key success of the last 12 months, after bringing together the 4 nations under The Hospitality Combine, we have started to become more aware of what works and what doesn’t. We are now seeing the clear differences in laws across borders and the effect they have on workers in our industry. We are also now sharing best practice and ideas to get us to where we need to be.
There have already been huge fundamental changes to how we organise hospitality. It is a unique sector owing to multiple different factors, one being that we do not have workplaces with huge numbers of workers where we are able to talk to daily with each other at break times etc, we also don’t have Shop Stewards who are often the first barrier between workers and their managers/employers. Our organising strategy has evolved thanks to the influence and determination of the lay reps, members and Unite organisers over the years.
Usually there would be a part of this statement about what I intend to do if elected into this role but, as previously mentioned, our voices will be coming together as one as we develop our master plan over the next 12months. Key developments coming up that we expect to be on the agenda include expansion of the Unite Hospitality brand to include previously unrepresented sectors within hospitality, such as baristas.
As we look to bring Unite into the future of organising through technology, and also reshape and fine tune our organising strategies, I thoroughly look forward to acting on the decisions of The Hospitality Combine, and working in the best interests of our members, as we pursue workplace issues and campaign for Fair Hospitality in the UK & Ireland.
I have been involved in Unite Hospitality since 2018 when we were launching our branch in Northern Ireland. Throughout my time in hospitality I’ve worked in waitressing, hotels, cocktail bartending, fastfood service and as a barista (my longest stay so far). I’ve worked in small local shops to multi-national chains, so I have come to grasp some of the difficulties and strengths of organising in different formats.
In my role as branch secretary I have overseen and got stuck into a number of industrial organising campaigns, from QUBSU to Hastings Hotels to my own workplace, Caffe Nero. As well as broader sectoral campaigns, with street campaigning on sexual harassment, wage theft and health & safety.
I’ve always seen it as absolutely vital to understand trade unionism as being based in but not limited to your own workplace. With that in mind, throughout campaigns I have always sought to identify leaders, activists and future reps who could shake up the broader union movement – not just their own management – as well as the political sphere, especially in a society (NI) that is characterised by sectarian division at the hands of the establishment parties. As such, I have mentored a number of brilliant activists who I hope will replace me someday soon.
This approach is vital for achieving our collective goal: a unionised hospitality industry, built on active branches and workplace structures.
Facilitating a healthy combine (and other union structures) requires a make up and contact with those currently engaged in disputes at their workplace. We need to be in constant connection with, and allow ourselves to be led by, those fighting for better at behest of their employer now. It is through such a connection that we will begin to understand more deeply the issues on people’s minds, and the minute tactics that can win.
Therefore, as a combine facilitator, I hope to use our ongoing campaigns to try and indentify and empower such activists who could play a key role in driving our campaign forward. For instance, using the coffee shop campaign I hope to 1) begin to build a strong density and workers networks in an ever-expanding and evermore profitable subsector to force the current race-to-the-bottom into a U-turn and 2) use connections at work and beyond to identify barista leaders who can work with experienced reps now to develop the skills required to lead the next wave of a sustainable hospitality combine structure. I hope my experience in identifying such individuals in the past makes this a smoother process.
I feel this work could be strengthened even further if I had even one of the eight proposed funded days of the week to focus purely on such targets. It would also allow me to continue to build up contacts I have beyond my own specific region, like those I met in Huddersfield who will hopefully now go on to help build a branch there with assistance from a local officer.
Spreading the Lessons from Other Hospitality Campaigns
As a socialist, I also believe that the working-class internationally has never been more connected through the intermeshing of supply chains and through the multinationals we work for. This also means we have an abundance of lessons to learn from workers’ struggles across the globe.
Throughout the past few months I have worked alongside Starbucks and Amazon workers who were organising their workplace in the US and Europe. In this work, I have learnt a number of lessons that I hope will underpin our work on the combine and help us avoid mistakes some of these campaigns are now reflecting upon. (I have wrote about this in more depth – if you’d like to read or talk more about these points please fire me a message).
- The importance of worker-led campaigns and democracy
- Nobody knows a workplace and its issues better than those who work there. It’s time for unions to stop pretending otherwise. Workers know what their coworkers do and don’t care about: this is the heartbeat of every successful campaign.
- Ensuring campaigns are worker-led and the product of open discussion is vital to undermining anti-union efforts. If the workers see a campaign as their own, they won’t have the same sympathy for anti-union rhetoric about ‘third party interference’ etc.
- Clear demands
- Such demands should be formulated through worker discussion.
- When the majority of the workforce has had little to no experience of trade unionism before it’s not enough to make romantic appeals of what they’ve won for us in the past – we are going to have to prove that unionising is something that will make a difference in their ability to put food on the table, pay the bills, reduce their stress and instability.
- Workers and our bosses don’t have the same interests at heart – we need to break with the social partnership model that has overseen a long-term decline of union membership.
- There’s a reason Mick Lynch and Chris Smalls have whipped up such a storm: they’re exposing the greedy nature of big business and making the point that the rich are only getting richer because our wages our falling. These two things are not a coincidence and working-class people know this.
- In our current ‘hot strike summer’ the bosses are going to try and to take their turn at fighting back. We have to be prepared.
By learning these lessons from our coworkers and comrades in the sector and union movement we can hit the ground running on an even stronger basis than we otherwise would if we stood alone.
Regardless of the outcome of this vote, I am excited to work alongside so many great activists and reps to transform our industry. We have a world to win!
I believe the Unite Hospitality Combine is the organising strategy we have been fighting for and will ensure our industry is organised by workers. Our combine has the ability to change our industry for the better. Members are key to that strategy, which is why this opportunity to elect a lay member to Combine Project Worker is so important. In this statement I will lay out from the experience I have gained as a lay rep what strategy and actions I will take to build the national combine and branches in all hospitality areas.
My experience in hospitality has predominantly been in luxury hotels; this has undoubtedly shaped the way I want to change the industry. Experiencing the sheer wealth and profit driven business of 5 star hotels and seeing none of that going to the workers that create it is an issue in our industry I fight to address and has motivated me to fight alongside all hospitality activists. Our industry is consistently the lowest paid and staff turn over is so high. To be able to organise hospitality workers into changing that and making this an industry we can all work in as a career is my ultimate goal. We as workers deserve the bread but give us roses too.
I believe that branch organising is absolutely key to everything we do in hospitality. We are not one workplace in one area and that should be used as a strength. We can create national campaigns that affect the whole industry standards like Get Me Home Safely. Having a thriving branch is key to organising and ensuring our industry is consistently member led. Since coming into my role in Glasgow, we have restarted the branch and made Glasgow a key branch in all of our organising. The strategy I used in Glasgow is what I would emulate across other areas as we build to create more branches. To be able to successfully organise branches to be sustainable we need activists to be able to represent workers whether that be initially or at ASC level, have the ability to identify issues and be given the support to create a campaign and have the support to coordinate organising workshops and walk rounds. Doing this in Glasgow has helped us to be a fighting branch led by workers and the ability to do that in different areas would help to create a thriving organising space for activists and ensure we grow our membership to exceed 30,000 in the initial year.
The national combine is an exciting strategy because it has been us as lay members that have and will continue to drive it. I believe it is important particularly in a union as big as ours to make sure lay members have their say and can push on an organising agenda that works for us. We need this to progress and succeed. Hospitality is an industry that is unlike most others. This is why it is important we have people that have worked in the industry like all of our activists driving it. We have waited too long for this opportunity. By making this selection democratically accountable to our peers I believe that will ensure that the interests of our activists will always be the project workers main priority.
Building this way will help to really shake up the archaic system we have fought against in Unite and change it for the better of our industry and the millions of other trade union members – but let’s start with Hospitality first!
Working with comrades in shaping the combine has been so inspiring and will continue to be. We are changing our industry together and I can’t wait to see what we can collectively achieve.
I would like to humbly submit an application for the proposed project worker role created on behalf of the new Unite Hospitality Combine.
These are exciting times for the Combine & Unite Hospitality as we seek to build a new fighting and winning organisation committed to overturning decades of poverty pay, unreasonable working conditions and an effective union lockout.
Our job is to bring these times to an end by empowering workers and giving confidence to new groups of hospitality workers who’ve had enough of bullying, precarious work, sexual harassment and all the other issues we associate with our sector.
I am a chef who got involved with Unite many years ago when I witnessed excessive working hours, bullying and the brutality of large hotel chain kitchens. Since those days I have done the following;
- Rebuilt a dead local branch of the union into vibrant activist group. I have been the branch secretary and treasurer for several years.
- Campaigned on a whole range of issues including the Real living wage, in defence of victimised trade unionists and against zero hour contracts.
- Represented Unite Hospitality regionally, nationally and Internationally at conferences, training courses and political events.
- I have attended Unite shop steward training, organising training and International solidarity training. I have diplomas in contemporary trade unionism and employment law.
- I am currently chair of the London and Eastern RISC and a delegate to the NISC.
- Currently proud to be chair of the Hospitality combine.
- I have been an ASC for several years and represented many hospitality workers during grievance, disciplinary and redundancy situations.
- I currently help co-ordinate the national Whitbread/ Premier Inn organising campaign. This campaign has seen us grow the activist base across the UK on a whole range of issues impacting the membership. In this role I give individual support and advice, advise on potential collective grievances and help facilitate the regional WhatsApp groups and monthly zoom forum. I also put together the campaign newsletters and social media videos. More importantly, my role also strives to turn individual member issues into collective demands. I’m proud to say we’re currently running several collective grievances across the group on holiday pay, bullying and safety issues.
I’m committed to making the combine an inclusive and democratic central committee of the most committed and dynamic activists in Unite Hospitality.
I’m committed to building active hospitality branches in every region of the UK.
I’m committed to pain staking organising across the combine target employers.
I’m committed to giving militant confidence to hospitality workers.
Enough is enough.
Let’s change the sector. For good! Together!