Housekeepers hassled and underpaid

BANGKOK, 24 October 2017: Equality in the hotel workplace still remains a big issue with far too few women taking up the top posts in management.

The hotel industry will quote the vast improvements that have been made noting the high number of women who head marketing, sales and public relations. It may even quote the fact that the majority of housekeepers are women.

Oxfam Canada’s latest report on women’s rights in the hotel industry begs to differ and it focuses particularly on the disparity in wages for women housekeepers.

The report ‘Tourism’s Dirty Secret” is based on findings gathered in three country studies namely; Thailand, the Dominican Republic and Canada.

It concludes: “Profits in the global hotel industry are based on the systematic exploitation of housekeepers, the majority of whom are poor women living in fear of losing their jobs.”

It goes on to claim “hotels often don’t pay housekeepers enough to survive, make them work long hours with no overtime pay, and turn a blind eye to high rates of injury and sexual harassment.”

Housekeepers are viewed as department heads, but according to the report it would take a female housekeeper working in Phuket, 14 years to earn what the highest hotel CEO earns in a single day.

Tourism and hospitality prides itself on supporting sustainable values. The message highlights the “trickle down effect,” that benefits the community and SME suppliers. There must be many hotel housekeepers who wonder about the trickle down factor, when they look at what the boss earns. But they shouldn’t, just like the village communities shouldn’t when they watch tourists pass-by. Trickle is a fair description. It is not a flood, or even a healthy stream of benefits. It’s a trickle with the real cash hoarded behind a closed floodgate that divides corporate tourism from communities with tourism assets. Do the arithmetic, deduct the airfares, the hotel costs and the earnings of OTAs and tour firms remembering that they often skim 30% off the selling price and then ask what percentage of a tourism dollar actually finds its way to communities?

If we think women housekeepers are hard done by wage wise, what of the maids, maintenance and gardeners, the 90% of the hotel workforce?  It could well take them an entire lifetime to earn what a hotel CEO earns in a day.