In February, five brave women mounted a picket on the Davenport Hotel on Lower Merrion Street, Dublin. They were doing so in response to the decision made by the O’Callaghan Hotel Group to cut their already low wages from €8.65 to €7.80 per hour. The company decided to implement this wage cut on the back of the outgoing government’s decision to allow a €1 per hour cut in the minimum wage.
Around 40, mainly migrant, workers agreed to sign new contracts following severe pressure from hotel management, threatening them with removal from the work roster, but these five women refused to take the wage cut on the basis that they could not afford to take a cut in their already abysmally low pay rate. Following their decision, they were immediately removed from the work roster.
The women went on strike and placed a picket, where the women faced an injunction limiting the number of picketers to a maximum of six at a time and litter wardens forcing them to remove posters attached to lamp posts outside the hotel. the Labour Court hearing, the company claimed the pay cuts were necessary to sustain jobs, but significantly they did not plead inability to pay. The company would also not provide any trading or financial information to substantiate its claim that the cuts were needed.
The O’Callaghan Hotel Group were heavily criticised for not providing a copy of the new contracts in English or the worker’s own language, and for not offering a translation service. Basically, these women were expected to sign contracts they did not understand under duress from management.
The hotel was ordered to reinstate the striking workers immediately on their existing pay rate. They will also receive all monies lost as a result of the dispute.
This was a victory not only for these five women, but for all low paid workers. The courageous actions of these workers should be commended and serve to encourage other workers to take a stand to protect their wages and conditions from the onslaught of cuts being inflicted on low wage earners.