Reflecting the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conversation we initiated a week ago continues; hotel workforce and labor issues.
Hotel occupancies have always been a good barometer to Hotel Managers and Hotel Owners because they (occupancies) indicate the success or failure of hotel properties.
Hotel budgets forecasted and generally approved at the beginning of the year 2020, crumbled before the very eyes of Hotel Managers as cancellations of room reservations and functions trooped in from mid- March. Hotels whose doors are still open and could be doing 60-70 % occupancy are recording 3-12%. These are the realities of the hotel business in Ghana during this pandemic. Cost cutting is the only available option, it seems.
All casuals were sent home at short notice. All employees with outstanding leaves followed, to exhaust their leaves. Then came the tougher measures; the scaling down/reduction of salaries. For some, it started by 30%, then 50% and am I now correctly hearing a 70% reduction in some quarters? So, for some hotels, laying off personnel, terminating the contracts of permanent personnel and shutting down the operations were actions which had to be taken. Was this fair? Fair to whom?
Today, we have Mrs. Akrofi-Asiedu stepping in as our Guest. She and I first met in Takoradi on a common platform talking about occupational standards and hotel career opportunities. She is an HR Practitioner with over 15 years working experience having worked briefly in the Construction Industry and mostly in the Hospitality Industry. Currently, she is the Human Resource Manager of the Best Western Plus Atlantic Hotel Takoradi, an Associate Member of the Institute of Human Resource Management Practitioners, Ghana (IHRMP) and the Secretary to the Western Regional Chapter of the Institute of Human Resource Management Practitioners, Ghana.
HOST: Mrs. Akrofi-Aseidu, welcome and thank you for accepting our invitation to discuss pertinent employee issues arising out of the covid-19 pandemic.
GUEST: Thank you very much, Madam.
HOST: I have seen a few clips of hotels informing the general public they are opening and that they are observing all the covid-19 protocol. However, there is a backlog of personnel issues which we will want to continue to address.
In the hotel industry it is not uncommon to see different types of relationships between Employers and the Workforce within the same organization.
The common types of employment are: full-time/permanent, part-time, casual, contract and trainee employees. Kindly explain the type of relationship each type of employment has with the Employer.
GUEST: Full-time/Permanent employment is the type where the Employees do not have a predetermined end date to their employment and are paid directly by the Employer. In addition to their wages, the Employees often receive other benefits like paid vacation, subsidized health care, sick leave, maternity leave, provident fund, clothing and vehicle allowances etc.
Part-time or Contract employment is the type where Employees have a fixed term to work with the company. Contract workers are specifically hired for a specific amount of time and must specifically have certain distinct skills with a high level of experience for the job for which they have been hired. Their rights as Employees must be addressed by the Employer.
Casual employment is a type of employment which is seasonal or intermittent and must not be for a continuous period of six (6) months. Casual workers do not have regular or systematic hours of work. They are employed on daily basis when the need arises but they are entitled to pay if they work on public holidays. Their rights as Workers must also be addressed by the Employer.
A trainee is a student who wants to undergo practical training in the area of study within the corporate world.
HOST: In labor relations both the Employer and the Worker owe each other some responsibilities. What are their responsibilities to each other considering the different types of relationships you have described?
GUEST: The responsibilities of permanent, contract, casual, part-time and trainee Employees towards their Employer are the same since the labor law sees all these categories as Workers. As Employees of these categories, they are to:
- Work conscientiously in the lawfully chosen occupation that they have been recruited for. They are to put in their best to see to smooth operations of the establishment.
- Report for work regularly and punctually and ensure that all duties given to them are rightfully executed.
- Enhance productivity by having a creative and innovative way of working so as enhance the image of the organization and to maximize profits.
- Obey lawful instructions regarding the organization.
- Take reasonable care for the safety and health for fellow workers that they work with.
- Protect the interest of the Employer
- Take proper care of the property of the Employer entrusted to their care or under their immediate control
Employers on the other hand are to:
- Provide work and appropriate raw materials, machinery, equipment and tools necessary for work to be done.
- Pay the agreed remuneration at the time and place agreed on in the contact of employment.
- Take all practicable steps to ensure that the Worker is free from risk of personal injury or damage to the workers’ health during and in the course of the worker’s employment while in the Employer’s premises.
- Furnish the Worker with a copy of the Worker’s contract of employment
- Develop the human resources by way of training and retraining of the Workers
- Provide and ensure the operation of an adequate procedure for discipline of Workers
- Keep open channels of communication with the Workers
- Protect the interest of the Workers.
HOST: Should employees be talking about their rights and entitlements when their hotels are on the verge of collapsing?
GUEST: The labor Law 2003, Act 651, Article 10(b) under the Rights of the Worker, states that “The rights of the worker is to receive equal pay for equal work done without distinction of any kind” Unfortunately, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic most hotels as you have rightly stated are on the verge of collapsing. This pandemic which is described as a force majeure is an unforeseeable circumstance, invariably an act of God that prevents a party to a contract from fulfilling the terms of the contract. So, Employers will definitely be having challenges paying their Employees (salaries and other entitlements) during this period.
The times call for reasonableness. Both Employers and Employees need to mutually agree on the payments of remunerations and other entitlements. Both parties can agree on pay reductions with the hope that when the situation returns to normalcy, the withheld amounts would be paid. Alternatively, both could agree on a parting gift.
Another perspective probably for the sake of good faith, business sustainability and job security, Organized labor could come to the rescue of the Employers in these hard and difficult times to offer to pay perhaps a fraction of the salaries of their members from their accumulated funds.
HOST: Organized labor…being TUC? Could you explain?
GUEST: Dues paid to organized labour by Employees, to the best of my knowledge are used by organized labour to run their day to day operations. The bigger percentage of the dues goes to the Mother Union (the umbrella body) and the Regional and Local Unions receive a smaller percentage.
I am of the strong opinion that this is the time when Organized labour (which is also seen and regarded as a stakeholder) can come to the rescue of Employers. This will develop a strong world view of unionism among Employees.
HOST: Wow… Thank you very much for enlightening us.
GUEST: My pleasure.
The different types of employment you will find in the hospitality industry include full-time/permanent, part-time, casual, contract employees and trainees. The labor law does not make any distinction between the different categories of Workers so their responsibilities towards the Employer and vice versa are the same.
To address the impact of COVID-19, the tune I hear sounding on all corridors including the International Labor Organization is the need for ‘collective efforts and solidarity’ between Employers and Workers’ Organizations.
We will carry the continuation of this dialogue with Mrs Akrofi-Asiedu in Part 4.