Hyatt offers 98 cleaners new jobs
Hotel firm bows to outcry over firings
Hyatt Hotels Corp., responding to public outcry, political pressure, and threatened boycotts, yesterday offered the 98 housekeepers it fired last month new jobs at their old wages, a move that was met with mixed reaction by those who protested the firings.
Hyatt said it is offering the housekeepers at the three Boston-area Hyatts, who had been abruptly replaced by lower-wage workers, full-time positions with United Service Cos., a Chicago-based staffing organization that the hotel chain uses for contract labor. Hyatt said those who accept the positions will be paid at their full Hyatt wage rate through the end of next year.
Those who don’t take the jobs will be offered training and career assistance and will receive their Hyatt wages through the end of March or until they land a permanent job.
Hyatt’s decision to fire its Boston housekeepers Aug. 31, as a cost-saving move, provoked an extraordinary standoff between a group of $15-an-hour workers and their allies – among them Governor Deval Patrick – and a billion-dollar company.
The housekeepers at the three Hyatt hotels – the Hyatt Regency Boston, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and the Hyatt Harborside at Logan International Airport – were replaced by employees of an Atlanta outsourcing firm, Hospitality Staffing Solutions, who make $8 an hour.
The housekeepers, some of whom had worked for the chain for more than 20 years, have said they were told to train the workers as vacation fill-ins, a claim Hyatt and Hospitality Staffing Solutions deny.
In addition to yesterday’s job offer, Hyatt said it is extending health care coverage through the end of March for employees who take positions at the hotels, hospitals, and shopping centers that United Services Cos. serves. After that, the housekeepers can get health benefits through the outsourcing company itself. Housekeepers who don’t want to take one of these jobs will be offered training and career assistance through the employment services companies Manpower and Right Management.
Rick Simon, president of United Service Cos., said the housekeepers who get temporary placement with his company could end up getting hired permanently. “I’m positive by 2010 and probably long before 2010,’’ he said, “all will be placed in permanent jobs at a similar wage scale’’ to what they were earning at the Hyatt.
The reaction to Hyatt’s offer was mixed. A spokesman for Patrick, who earlier this week said that he would direct state employees on official business to boycott the Hyatt, said the governor spoke to local Hyatt management and is reviewing the proposal.
“He wants to ensure that this is a proposal the workers can depend on and feel is fair,’’ said spokesman Kyle Sullivan. “Having been treated so unfairly, they are understandably hesitant to trust any proposal short of restoring them their jobs.’’
The Boston Taxi Drivers Association, which also threatened a boycott, called off the effort yesterday.
“It is not the best of remedies, but at least these workers will have jobs at the same rate of pay with benefits through 2010 and will receive financial support and retraining opportunities to secure permanent jobs,’’ said union representative Donna Blythe-Shaw.
But housekeeper Corporina Belis was not interested in the offer. Belis, who worked at the Boston Hyatt for 24 years and has been sending $300 a month to her mother who lives in the Dominican Republic, wants her old job back. “I know my job,’’ said Belis, 62, who added that she was training a Hospitality Staffing Solutions worker the day she was fired. “That’s my life, my job.’’
Likewise, officials from Unite Here, Local 26, a union that represents hotel workers, were not happy with Hyatt’s proposal. The union organized a rally for the Hyatt workers last week, even though the housekeepers are not unionized.
“Hyatt’s latest proposal is simply a smoke screen designed to trick people in to thinking Hyatt is doing the right thing,’’ union president Janice Loux said in a statement.
“It does not provide the women with the one thing they really deserve,’’ Loux said. “These women have made it clear that they want to be returned to the jobs they have held for years, and Hyatt’s PR scheme does not diminish their determination.’’
William J. Holstein, author of the book “Manage the Media,’’ which addresses how bad publicity can affect a company, agrees that Hyatt didn’t go far enough.
“Helping people get jobs at a temporary employment agency doesn’t feel right,’’ Holstein said. “The logic of this is they have to admit they made a mistake, say they were insensitive, and do the right thing. It’s a minor league issue, they’re a global company and this has really hurt them.’’