Workers see red at ‘green’ hotels

TAKE A BREAK Workers at this Westin hotel in Vancouver say there is nothing 'green' about back-breaking workloads.

Hotel workers are paying a high personal price so their employers can claim they have gone ‘green’.

Last year, US hotel staff complained they faced a back-breaking increase in workload as a result of a hotel chain’s move to reduce laundry and related energy consumption.

While management claimed fewer bedding and towel changes were good for the environment, the move was accompanied by staffing cuts which left the remaining outsourced staff facing more work and more strains.

Now workers in Canada are reaching the same painful realisation about their ‘greener’ jobs. Staff at the US-based Starwood Hotels chain, which includes Sheraton and Westin hotels and which is touting a ‘Make a Green Choice’ programme in its hotels across North America, say the initiative is a bogus green plan that does nothing for the environment.

But it does result in reduced shifts and more work for housekeeping staff, said Michelle Travis of the union Unite Here Local 40, which represents staff in British Columbia, Canada. “It’s just a cost-cutting measure on the part of the hotel employer,” she told The Province.

“Guests don’t realise this particular programme has a negligible impact on the environment but a detrimental impact on housekeepers.”

She added that the union was taking up the issue in contract negotiations.

In June 2010, Starwood said it was “targeting a 30 per cent reduction in energy use per available room by 2020; the company will also work toward a 20 per cent decrease in water consumption per available room by 2020. The initiative will apply to all of Starwood’s owned, managed, and franchised hotels around the world.”

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