Northern Ireland news

Hospitality employers accused of `shady practices' over furloughed workers

The Unite union organised a protest by workers from the hospitality industry at Parliament buildings, Stormont today calling for more support for the sector from the N.I. Executive. Picture Mal McCann.

UNION members and workers staged a protest at Stormont yesterday in support of hospitality staff amid fears for their future.

Members of Unite the union staged the demonstration outside Parliament Buildings at 1pm, handing in a letter addressed to Economy Minister Diane Dodds demanding an urgent meeting on the need to secure jobs and skills

The action was part of a UK-wide week of action by hospitality and tourism workers to press the government to consult workers as well as industry chiefs on post-lockdown moves.

Unite organiser Neil Moore said research it commissioned "indicates that between 10,000 and 15,000 hospitality workers in Northern Ireland face the threat of redundancy in the coming weeks".

"While nearly every whim of business owners have been central to the plans to reopen this industry - the voice of workers has been totally excluded. We have genuine concerns for safety and for our industry.

"We are keen that opportunities to upskill workers who are currently furloughed have not been pursued."

He said hospitality workers are worried about the future, with a survey of those under redundancy threat revealing "71 per cent will not return to work in the sector if made redundant".

Mr Moore said members were joined by "private and public sector workers... to show their solidarity".

"Other workers who are starting to go out and socialise again are asking us which bars and pubs have been decent to workers throughout this, they want to know where to avoid."

However, the Department for the Economy indicated the minister had established an Engagement Forum chaired by the Labour Relations Agency, which included Unite, to develop practical guidance for workplaces, and set up a Tourism Recovery Steering Group to lead the planning for the recovery of the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Unite is also represented on Hospitality Ulster's recovery group.

It highlighted that support for over 2,000 people to achieve qualifications through the local universities and further education colleges has been brought forward to help people who are furloughed or have been made redundant to upskill.

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