Hospitality reopens in the North: Workers must be organised

by Neil Moore

The announcement of the reopening of hospitality venues by the Northern Ireland Executive has been widely welcomed by workers and young people, including those working in the industry. This comes after a long year of lockdowns, job losses and surviving on 80% of the already unliveable minimum wage.

The reopening – initially of outdoor venues before a full reopening around the 24th May – comes after extensive lobbying by bosses’ organisations Hospitality Ulster and the NI Hotels Federation. Seizing control of the debate and narrative through the airwaves, they cynically used workers’ jobs and livelihoods to push for an accelerated reopening. But the bosses have not demonstrated any concern for industry workers throughout this crisis, and their focus remains profit above all else – including public health.

The experience of working during the pandemic has taught many hospitality workers that bosses cannot be relied upon to put adequate health and safety measures in place. Many hospitality workers (44% of whom are under the age of 35) will be waiting some weeks to receive their first dose of the vaccine, creating potential for further workplace cluster outbreaks. Only workers – organised and backed up by a trade union – can ensure a safe reopening of their workplaces, for staff and customers alike.

Even with reopening, the bosses are planning further attacks on jobs, wages and working conditions in an accelerated race to the bottom, aimed at securing future profits. But workers can start to demonstrate the real power they have. The total disregard hospitality bosses have demonstrated towards their staff over the last year has created a labour shortage, as many workers have chosen to leave the industry for good. Now is the time to get organised, join a union alongside colleagues, and go on the offensive for a real living wage, an end to precarious contracts and for better working conditions.

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