Key Words: Vulnerability, Exploitation, Power, Rights, Migrant, Hospitality.
The 2004 European Union (EU) enlargement saw ten new member states introduced, these included two Mediterranean Islands, Malta and Cyprus. And also eight central and eastern European countries including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary (Murphy, 2006: 635). Along with the expansion, three pre-existing EU member states including United Kingdom (UK), Ireland and Sweden chose to lift the restrictions on labour workers coming from the ten new members states to work in their country.
Since the merging of the EU countries, the UK saw an influx in people migrating from the new member states over to the UK to live and work. Janta (2011) suggests that many of the reasons for migrating the UK have included high unemployment rates in their homes countries, low wages, lack of opportunity, poor economic performance and weak social states. As a result many migrants found their way into the tourism and hospitality industry. â€˜The reason for this is the sectorâ€™s nature and conditions, along with its accessibility and the broad understanding of required skills that makes migrant workers take up hospitality jobsâ€™ (Janta, 2011: 803). Much of the literature on migrant workers in the hospitality industry suggests that the common characteristics include high staff turnover, long physically demanding hours, often seen as low skilled and poorly paid low status jobs.
Looking specifically at female migrant working in the hotel sector of the hospitality industry, research suggests they are seen as being more disadvantaged due to their age, gender and nationality. â€˜Their voices remain unheard, their stories untold, and their experiences largely overlooked in both hospitality and migration scholarship.â€™ (Rydzik et al, 2012: 138). Gadow (2009) suggests that many migrant workers are young, not fully literate in the English language, with minimal financial resources, limited social networks in the UK and often have restricted welfare rights due to their immigration status in the UK. All of which characteristics can often lead to migrant workers being vulnerable and at risk of exploitation. The main themes addressed will be Employees rights, Vulnerability, Exploitation and Power.
Exploitation in terms of migrant exploitation in the work force can be defined as the acts or circumstances in which a person or organization treats someone unfairly in order to gain or benefit from that persons working ability. This was shown in the BBC documentary on migrant workers during the 2012 Olympics, as evidence was shown that the workers at the Waldorf Hilton hotel were being exploited. Changes in their contract meant that they were set unrealistic and unreasonable targets to clean a certain amount of hotel rooms an hour and if these targets were not met, there would be deductions in their wages. It was even stated that the migrant employees were given higher targets to meet than the British employees (Cleaners anger at outsourcing in top Olympic hotels, 2012).
This was found to be one of the main issues which were echoed in a number of sources including; McDowell (2007) where she talks about a Polish woman who was set to clean 16 rooms per shift within 20 to 30 minutes per room. A second BBC documentary on the exploitation of migrant workers, showed that workers at a London hotel were given a target of cleaning 2.5 rooms per hour and if this was not met, they would not receive the full Â£5.73 minimum wage per hour.
There is a clear sign that employers use their power over the employees to exploit them in fear of being dismissed or cuts to wages. â€˜There is a dark side in such a power-embedded relationship; for example, hotel staff members are vulnerable to harassment because of their status relative to the customersâ€™ (Guerrier and Adib 2000. Cited in Mcintosh and Harris, 2012: 130). McDowell (2007) argues that employers and managers use stereotypical assumptions about the embodied attributes of workers. Therefore the assumption those female migrant workers are best suitable for working within the hotel cleaning sector. Anderson, et al (2006) uses the term â€˜the capacity for hard workâ€™ as a way to describe the key reason for migrant employment within the hospitality sector (cited in, McDowell, 2007: 8).
The Trade union Congress states that people who can legally work in the UK are entitled and have the right to; earn the national minimum wage, working time rights â€“ including breaks, holidays and holiday pay, they are also entitled to health and safety protection, the right to join a union and also protection from unfair discrimination (Trade Union Congress, 2007: 6). The evidence which has already been discussed suggests that many employers are not adhering to this policy. The use of documents such as the Staff Wanted Initiative (2015) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission Guidance (2010) can be used to combat exploitation of female migrant workers in the UK.
Trade Union Congress (TUC) (2007) working in the UK: Your rights report. [Online] Available from: http://www.tuc.org.uk/tuc/workingintheuk.pdf [Accessed 28 April]
Janta, H. (2011) Polish migrant workers in the UK hospitality industry. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 23 (6) 803-819
McDowell, L. & Batnitzky, S.D. & Dyer, S. (2007) Division, Segmentation, and Interpellation: The Embodied Labors of Migrant Workers in a Greater London Hotel. Economic Geography. 83 (1) 1-15.