This is not a moment, it’s a movement…. One of my favourite lines from the musical Hamilton – which I may have dedicated a bit too much time to over lockdown. We all have our coping mechanisms and I’ve come to realise that I found a lot of strength from that musical in the last year. The underdogs fighting for what is right, at times letting passion get the better of them in a ruthless world but maintaining strength and a sense of what is right throughout it all.
Having worked in hospitality for the last decade as a career driven young female, I believe I have seen some of the very best and very worst the industry has to offer. I have worked in kitchen, housekeeping, food and beverage, front office, and nights in hotels of all calibres. I had a brief dalliance in the world of chain restaurants following my redundancy in August 2020 and now I am very proud to be the manager of a small independent restaurant in Edinburgh and the Branch Chair of Unite Edinburgh Hospitality.
This has not always been easy – especially while studying. There is pressure to look good, always be in a good mood, go out for drinks and say yes to things you should not have to (I’ll let your imagination fill in this bit) because if you don’t then expect your hours to be cut, promotions to be less likely and a less than warm reception from your boss. Oh – and don’t react with anything but a smile when a customer or superior berates you, makes an inappropriate comment, throws you under the bus or asks you if it’s your time of the month.
At its best hospitality is a safe space where you and your colleagues are a family, you have a warm fuzzy feeling because you have been able to assist your customers during the most significant periods in their lives or you’ve helped train a colleague who has grown into their own. It is time however, that we highlight the negatives and treat them with the severity they deserve.
Last year saw the industry and everybody in it brought to its knees. As a law student I knew I was better placed than many of my colleagues to navigate the world of redundancy – but it wasn’t enough. As a relatively new Unite member I called for backup. Unite have supported countless numbers of my friends and industry colleagues through what is hopefully the most difficult period in our lives. It also saw new members from the industry join Unite in swathes. We have woken up and broken free from the Stockholm syndrome so many of us suffer from in the industry. With a newly relaunched fair tips campaign, campaigns to end fire and rehire, our fair hospitality charter, and a growing awareness of the effectiveness of collective action and of our rights we have a chance to reform the industry. Together we can shape the industry into one we are proud to be a part of and which is sustainable and attractive to those looking to join the industry. Yes, there are growing pains but stick with it. We will get through this period where Brexit, COVID-19, staffing and supply shortages are rife but get comfortable being uncomfortable, challenge what needs to be challenged, talk about your salary and conditions – ignorance is bliss and look where that has found us. Educate yourself and your colleagues, but most importantly join a union.
For further information visit our Covid 19 Legal Hub.
Blog by Amy Snell, Unite Scotland Member