Davenport hotel targets migrant workers for minimum wage cut of 1 euro

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Despite the empty promises of Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan employers have started to try and impose the 1 euro cut in the minimum wage on workers in Dublin.  SIPTU placed pickets on the Davenport Hotel in Dublin after workers were  taken off the roster for refusing to sign new contracts reducing their wage rate by almost €1 an hour. The workers concerned who are all women from Eastern Europe were brought into three meetings by management over the last three weeks and repeatedly told they must sign the new contracts or face being taken off the roster. According to SITPU they were not given a copy of the new contract, either in English or in their own languages. 

Lunchtime of the first day of the picket saw around 30 other SIPTU members, including a group from nearby Trinity College, joining the Davenport 5 outside the hotel to show their solidarity. SIPTU sectoral organiser, Pat Ward, explained that this dispute “means that the assurances given by Brian Lenihan last November that existing employees would not be forced to sign new low pay contracts were meaningless, as SIPTU and other unions predicted at the time. Fine Gael is threatening to introduce even more draconian measures to undermine minimum rates of pay set by Employment Regulation Orders in other low paid industries.”

 SIPTU Vice President Patricia King revealed that the workers who are from Lithuania and Poland and have worked at the Davenport Hotel for between four and six years, ; "were brought to a series of meetings where they were told they must agree to accept a reduction in pay from €8.65 an hour to €7.79 to ‘support the Government’. If they refused to do so they would be taken off the roster.” 

“The other workers, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers, signed the new contracts. Like the five women they were not given translations of the document or copies. I think it showed incredible courage by these women to take the stand they did,” 

“As far as I am aware, this is the first occasion on which the new law has been tested in the industrial relations arena. The stakes are very high. Every employer in low wage sectors of the economy will be watching this dispute. If these workers are effectively locked out of their jobs and penalised for seeking to defend their right to the €8.65 rate it will signal a new race to the bottom.” 

This dispute involves only five people it has implications for over 300,000 workers affected by the new National Minimum Wage legislation and related rates of pay in the hotels, contract cleaning, security and other low pay sectors. 

The Davenport Hotel is part of the O’Callaghan Hotel Group owned by Persian Properties and property developer, Noel O’Callaghan. SIPTU says he has been a regular financial contributor to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over the years. The Group owns three other hotels in Dublin, the Alexander Hotel, the Mont Clare and O’Callaghan Stephen’s Green. It also owns hotels in Gibraltar and in Annapolis, Maryland, USA and is currently building a new hotel in Warsaw, Poland for €21 million.

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