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Hospitality Hostility

The hospitality trade is one of Brighton's largest and most lucrative business sectors, and not coincidentally has one of the worst records when it comes to the pay and conditions of its employees. Wages as low as £3 per hour, no holiday pay, being hired and fired at a moment's notice, no breaks, unsafe and unsanitary conditions are commonplace.

Much of the work in Brighton's hospitality trade (work in bars, cafés, restaurants hotels etc) is performed by foreign workers who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation as a result of speaking little or no English, uncertain visa status or both. It's these staff who ensure that Brighton maintains its reputation as the go to location for boozed up decadence on the south coast. Things may be about to change however, as workers organise and fight for their rights.

October saw the launch of the Brighton Hospitality Workers network. Under the banner of those stalwart anarcho-syndicalists, SolFed, the network plans to bring hospitality workers into regular contact with one another to promote workers’ rights, solidarity and mutual support.The initiative was launched with a poster campaign and visits to some of the most notorious employers, where contact was made with front-of-house and kitchen staff to discuss their rights at work and promote the benefits of organisation in combating illegal practice and poor pay and conditions.

Challenges that face organising in this sector include high staff turnover, workers’ lack of awareness of employment law and business owners eager to exploit a ready supply of labour, often immigrant, who are dependent on casual or precarious work to scrape by in one of the UK’s most expensive places to live.

SchNEWS spoke to an organiser  "Another challenge - the constant presence of managers in most workplaces we visit – can, we believe, be turned into a strength where there are customers to inform and reputations at stake - in this sense the precariousness of a business becomes a potential weakness to organise around."

As well as meetings, the network is keeping a record of bad practice through interviews with workers and will produce a map showing where the worst employers are-


From a recent poster:

Do you work in hospitality? Bar, cafe, restaurant or hotel?
Issues in the workplace? Join Brighton Hospitality Workers Network

The hospitality industry in Brighton & Hove is notorious for long hours, low pay and precarious conditions. Common issues we’ve come across include:

Below minimum wage pay / Long shifts without breaks
No contract, written or verbal / Unpaid overtime
Unlawful deductions from wages / No holiday entitlement

We’re building a network of hospitality workers dedicated to organising around workplace rights and providing mutual support. We believe that by acting together workers who lack official representation can directly tackle issues and demand rights from management. We’re planning to arrange meetings where specific issues can be shared and collectively acted on.

If you’re a hospitality worker and interested in discussing a workplace issue or joining the network – get in touch!   


A website is on its way. Meanwhile, Brighton Hospitality Workers can be contacted via Brighton Solfed: brighton[AT]solfed.org.uk


Twitter: @SchNEWS