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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Historic first national conference of hotel workers in India declares national federation

Posted to the IUF website 04-Sep-2006

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On 2-4 September the All India Conference of Hotel Workers� Unions, organized by the IUF, brought together 47 unions representing 20,000 members in hotels and catering services across the country. The conference, held in Goa, was the first national conference of hotel unions to be held in India.

Over 100 union representatives from both national and international hotel chains discussed the challenges posed by ownership change and closures, including the financialization of the hotel industry involving the separation of real estate from hotel businesses and the privatization of hotels owned by public corporations.

Also high on the agenda were cases of victimization and dismissal of union leaders � including the struggle against union-busting at the Searock Hotel (formerly part of Sheraton�s ITC Welcomgroup) in Mumbai (Bombay) which has now entered its 15th year.

Another key challenge discussed was the impact of outsourcing and casualization (contractualization) on working conditions, employment security and worker and trade union rights. All unions reported on the exploitation of contract workers, with more than half of the workers employed in the hotel industry hired under contract labour arrangements and denied even statutory minimum wages and benefits. In response the delegates exchanged experiences of organizing and supporting the demands of contract workers, the inclusion of contract workers� rights and interests in collective bargaining demands, and legal action at the workplace, state and national levels.

Responding to IUF�s call to global action, the delegates agreed to participate in a �Day of Demands� on 27 September, World Tourism Day, to highlight the contradictions of a booming tourism industry and tremendous growth in investment in hotel properties occurring alongside deteriorating working conditions, widespread exploitation of contract workers and employment insecurity. The demands include: the regularization of contract and daily workers, the abolition of the contract labour system and an end to unfair labour practices.

On the second day of the conference, 4 September, the delegates voted unanimously to form the �Hotel Employees Federation of India� (HEFOI) and elected a National Preparatory Committee responsible for drafting a constitution and registering HEFOI.

Another six unions who were not represented at the conference have already expressed their commitment to join the federation, bringing the total membership to more than 25,000 workers.