Monday, 8 June 2015

Omnishambles

So who is it? Who have I been working for?

Well, the company is called Omni Facilities Management. This is a contract cleaning company, registered in the UK, currently operating across 150 hotels in the UK and Singapore. Omni have a presence in some of London's top hotels including global powerhouses like Hilton.




Established in 1980, it's been running for 36 years. Last year's gross profits were £4,076,131. The company says it employs 4000 people – over 2000 of those on direct contracts. Employment would suggest a relationship of mutual obligation, in fact for many the relationship is one of being employed on a virtually zero hours contract, as in my case, a four hour per week contract. I'm guaranteed just £26* wages by Omni per week. 


But this isn't the only problematic part of the contract. There is an unlawful clause (depicted below) which states that the first two weeks of work are 'training' and are unpaid if an employee leaves before 3 months are up. This means that hundreds of pounds of wages which are owed to workers, are unpaid. Workers are not getting the minimum wage for the hours they've worked – a violation of the law.



 The rogue clause - and below, typed in:

Training: The first 2 weeks of your employment are dedicated and designated ‘Training weeks’ as or Client hotels require trained team members. Payment for this training will be paid when you leave our employment however, should you voluntarily leave within the first 12 weeks, the company reserves the right to charge you the equivalent cost of providing this transferable, job specific training. The company may, within your first pay cycle, at its discretion pay you a salary advance subject to certain qualifying criteria and based on assessed competence and capability. Any advance will be deducted from your subsequent salary.

I pointed this out to Omni and they told me I had signed the contract and had therefore consented to carrying out unpaid work for the company, despite cleaning to a good standard, carrying out spring cleans and meeting my quota of rooms per day.

Given that the staff turnover in Housekeeping Departments is about 50% - I.e half of all new starters leave within a few months, and taking into account those who take the job over a summer period and are unable to fulfil the three month period imposed by Omni - there could be thousands of workers out there who are owed substantial amounts of cash by this company.

Most Housekeeping Department workers do not speak English as a first language, with many unable to speak English at all. They are not given the Employee Handbook or their contract in their first language, which means they often don't know what they've signed and what it means for their wages and conditions. Most are likely to accept the explanation given by the company as to why they will not be paid or have not been paid for work they have done, as part of this 'training period'.

Agencies taking over from the Omni contract also end up taking on this liability, meaning they could be subject to claims by workers who have been shafted by Omni but will now need to be paid out by their new agency.

Omni Facilities have questions to answer over their contractual clause which blatantly violates employment law. You work – you get paid, End Of. A two week 'training period' can see the company pocketing some £480 per worker for two five-day weeks of labour.

They justify this as the cost of providing the training, This 'training' consists of cleaning rooms with and alongside experienced workers who lead by example, but they don't get any extra pay for providing this 'training'. Their load is just a little bit lighter. The training also consists of just 3 days of shadowing, so the two week period is also questionable.


                                                 What I have to do

Looking through Omni's website, they try to present themselves as a 'good corporate citizen' as all these Housekeeping agencies do, sponsoring vocational training and pledging to 'revolutionise hotel housekeeping...through leading software'. 

What will revolutionise this industry and this sector, isn't going to be new software, it'll be seeing the back of Omni and other agencies whose sole purpose is to profit from ever higher 'productivity' quotas (making mostly women migrant workers work harder and faster, faster and harder, at a great cost to their physical and mental and health and well being). Our labour is their grist. They do not add any value themselves to business, we are the business, and we do it all for minimum wage – and up to two weeks for free! Whilst some of the most profitable companies in the world wash their hands of us.

Hotels should guarantee a living wage, as well as stable and decent terms and conditions by employing us directly and eliminating this strata of competitive companies tendering on how much more labour they can squeeze out of us - an ever more desperate workforce. 

Agencies are supposed to exist only to cover and peaks and troughs in labour supply, not to keep us all on permanent zero hours contracts and constant precarity.

But I'm not looking for anyone to save me.

Omni are a shambles. But they are not alone in the shark pool. We know public opinion is on our side about the need for highly profitable companies to pay the living wage and ensure fair, humane and healthy conditions for all workers. 

The question is, when will the the hotel chains wake up and smell the R2, and clean up this industry? The answer is when we, self organised and unionised, force them to.

* Originally this figure was £24 per week. The correct figure based on the Minimum Wage is actually £26. This is down to author error. Apologies for any confusion caused.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent post!
    Really liked this post. this blog help us for cleaning solution.
    Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

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    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for posting this. I had a bad experience with Omni (catering side). They found my CV online, and with the promise of work as a waitress, I traveled half way across London to their Hammersmith office. In fact, I had to make this expensive journey twice, because they claimed my uniform (which you had to purchase yourself) was inadequate. I was then charged money for thoroughly inadequate training (which I had to do before I could be given work). I made a loss on the whole thing because they NEVER once rang me to work.
    A scam, total shysters.
    Thank you for naming and shaming, keep it up

    ReplyDelete
  3. 2 points - an illegal employment clause is illegal no matter whether or not you've signed it. While it is possible to sign away some employment rights, the minimum wage is not one of them. If you have a concern that you are not getting paid the minimum wage (or believe you aren't) then you can report it to HMRC on their hotline 0800 917 2368

    Secondly, the current rate of min wage is £6.50ph, which means that 4 hours work should be paid £26 not £24 (and this rises to £6.70 ph on 1 October). Again, if you're only paid £6 an hour you should raise it with HMRC.

    As an HR manager by profession, there is no reason why a big company like this shouldn't be aware of these pretty basic employment rules. It also makes me angry on behalf of decent employers when sharks like this flout the rules, exploit the people who work for them and trade on their ignorance of their basic employment rights,

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  4. Well,well... When I commented on the 27 Feb blog post, this was exactly the company I was referring to.

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