Forming a new independent body to oversee the hospitality sector is among the key recommendations in a new report on working conditions and skills shortages in the region by the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture , arts, sports and media.
Committee members also called for measures to improve wages and conditions in the sector, changes to regulations governing the granting of visas to migrants coming to Ireland to work in the hospitality industry and a series of initiatives to provide greater opportunities for training and career development. intend to work or already be employed in the industry.
Launching the report on Tuesday, Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster said it was incumbent on the government to heed the recommendations and ‘not pay the usual attention to workers’ rights’.
Several members of the committee, which was chaired by Fianna Fáil’s Niamh Smyth, stressed that the report was not intended to be seen as a general criticism of employers in a sector that would have provided 11% of the country’s pre-Covid jobs and , he says, about two-thirds of employment in rural and regional areas.
He, however, cited evidence provided to him of employees reporting “lack of appropriate compensation and lack of break time” as well as “cases of bullying, harassment and other harmful behavior at work”.
There was evidence, it was suggested, that women and migrant workers tended to face particular difficulties.
Ms Smyth said the commission believed a sector which “is central to the vitality of the Irish economy” would benefit from the creation of an independent body to oversee it. Currently, she said, “no body is responsible for the hospitality sector” and in addition to a new body which would be to hospitality what Fáilte Ireland is to tourism, there must be ” greater collaboration of existing agencies on this subject”. .
Union representatives present at the launch welcomed a number of recommendations in the report, including its call for Tourism Minister Catherine Martin to “engage with industry stakeholders…to seek urgently find a workable solution to the legal issues that terminated joint labor boards relating to tourism and hospitality and ensure that they can be reinstated in order to provide a process for setting rates of pay and conditions legal minimum employment standards for employees in these sectors, given the clear evidence presented to the Committee of widespread poor wages and working conditions”.
Industry representatives were less enthusiastic about some of the content and tone, with several saying the vast majority of industry employers value their workers and treat them well.
Eoghan O’Meara Walsh, chief executive of the Confederation of the Irish Tourism Industry, said that while he felt there were many positive aspects to the report, there were others with which he was “uncomfortable” and that it was necessary to have a “balanced discussion”. .
“There are 20,000 tourism and hotel businesses in the country. The vast majority are SMEs, many of them are family businesses, and the vast, vast majority, I would say, are excellent employees. There are approximately 250,000 people working in the sector. It is the largest indigenous industry, the largest regional employer by far [and] some of the characterizations I heard from the room, I don’t recognize them.
Like O’Meara Walsh, Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland said his organization would take some time to digest the contents of the report before responding formally.
“If there are bad employers, and I think it’s a small minority, they need to be rooted out, but I think the law should be the same for all sectors. We shouldn’t have different laws s ‘applying to people working in restaurants, hotels or bars and those applying to those working in shops or any other business,’ he said.