At the British Hospitality Association's (BHA) second British Hospitality & Tourism Summit yesterday, employers pledged to offer 30,000 new job opportunities for young people by 2015 through a mixture of permanent jobs, apprenticeships and paid work placements.
However, protesters gathering outside the InterContinental Park Lane (which announced it would be offering the London living wage to its staff at its managed venues last year) following the summit urged the industry to 'put its money where its mouth is' and improve wages for the majority of hotel, restaurant and pub staff by paying a living wage of £8.55 an hour if they worked in London and £7.45 if they were based outside.
"They are talking about creating all these new jobs, but we just want a fair wage,” a hotel worker told BigHospitality.
Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull said the success of the industry needed to filter down to staff so that they could recommend it as a place to work.
“The hotel and tourism industries are major economic drivers – yet those that ensure the bedrooms are clean and that foreign tourists have a good impression of Britain are paid barely enough to survive," he said.
“We are calling for the employers to ensure that the living wage, currently voluntary, becomes the norm in the industry – and that employees are treated with respect. The bosses should put their money where their mouth is.”
Big Hospitality Conversation
Despite the protests, The second half of the summit, held at the InterContinental Park Lane was dedicated to The Big Hospitality Conversation, an initiative led by Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants managing director Patrick Dempsey and supported by Springboard to create an open dialogue between young people and industry leaders and improve opportunities for young people.
Through the initiative, employers have pledged to offer over 31,000 opportunities in their businesses to help provide the one million unemployed 16-24 year-olds in the UK with jobs and Dempsey said he hoped there would be more following the 12 events planned for this year.
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said she had been impressed at how successful the initiative had already been. "We have been insipired by Patrick because he has stepped forward and inspired his peers. This has all happened in less than a year."
So far the initiative has helped 700 young people find work in the hospitality industry with many, like Leanne Gayle and Philip Jenkinson saying the chances they were given were 'life-changing'. Twenty-one-year-old Gayle, a bar worker at Guoman Hotels, appeared with Springboard's Anne Pierce and gave an emotional account of how her job had helped lift her out of depression.
"I can't tell you how much the job means to me," the 21-year-old told the audience.
The afternoon session was also chaired by three other young hospitality workers - Merrily Uzoaru, Emily Karatay and Wayne - who had been supported by Springboard and offered placements through the charity's scheme.