Hotel Chain Paying Staff Less Than Minimum Wage, Campaigners Claim

1 November 2017, 05:30

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A UK luxury hotel chain has been accused of paying staff less than the minimum wage and effectively "blacklisting" workers who want to join trade unions.

MPs also heard claims gangmasters were operating on a major public construction project and a large hospitality group fined for failing to pay the minimum wage is doing so on a "systematic" basis.

Bryan Simpson, from the Better than Zero organisation which campaigns for workers' rights, told a Westminster committee a general manager for Macdonald Hotels had told staff "not to join" a union.

He said a chef for the Scottish-based chain, which has 55 hotels across Europe, was regularly working up to 75 hours a week but being paid for 48 hours, leaving him with less than the minimum wage.

Mr Simpson said the chef was told if he raised a grievance about unpaid overtime via a union he would be sacked.

He said: "There's a fear within senior management within the hospitality industry that trade unions are going to come in and start changing things for the workers, I think we're seeing hospitality bosses coming down hard on those.

"That is a form of blacklisting because if you're prevented or even discouraged from joining a trade union, that is a form of blacklisting. It's getting a lot worse."

Giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee's inquiry into sustainable employment in Scotland, he also called for large firms which persistently fail to pay tens of thousands in the statutory minimum wage to be fined "millions".

He highlighted Scotland's largest hospitality group, the Glasgow-based G1 Group, which was named and fined by the HMRC for failing to pay the minimum wage.

He said: "G1 was the worst in Scotland in terms of not paying the minimum wage. For a company like that, it's clearly systematic.

"This isn't a small family-run salon who, although it's still unacceptable, has failed to pay a hairdresser £300. This is £45,000 for 2,800 workers."

He added: "They need to be fined much more than what they actually took off staff.

"For example, G1 were just fined the £45,000 that they failed to pay the staff. That is absolutely no sanction for a company that made £60 million last year."

The committee also heard from Unite regional co-ordinating officer for construction Steve Dillon on concerns about employment practices in the construction industry, including blacklisting despite firms having pledged to tackle the issue.

He said: "Blacklisting is endemic. It's as bad as it ever was.

"Where's the proof that anyone in Scotland has taken on a blacklisted worker, someone they blacklisted? All these blacklisted workers can't get jobs."

He said there should be more policing of the problem and workers' rights on public contracts, saying he previously found "gangmasters" running workers on a £745 million bypass scheme in Aberdeen.

He said: "I went to a house where there were 40 Senegalese workers staying in the same house. There was gangmasters operating on that job in Scotland. It's a disgrace."

Committee convener Pete Wishart said the companies named would be contacted regarding the claims.

A spokesman for Macdonald Hotels said: "We employ over 4,000 people and all are paid at least the minimum wage.

"We value our employees and if anyone has any specific factual information, we would encourage them to come forward and issues will be rectified accordingly.

"We remain committed to national minimum wage and also national living wage when circumstances allow."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Blacklisting in any form is unacceptable, particularly given the serious impact it can have on the lives of those affected, and that is why we have taken greater steps than the rest of the UK, and indeed the EU, to help eradicate blacklisting from public contracts.

"The procurement rules in Scotland strengthen workers' rights beyond the regulations set by the EU. Any company which has been found to 'blacklist' workers must be banned from bidding for public contracts."