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Spanish hotel booking app to show working conditions of staff – The Guardian

Spanish chambermaids’ union to launch platform in response to outsourcing and low pay rates
Tourists booking a hotel in Spain will soon be able to choose not only one with the best views or the biggest pool, but also one where the staff enjoy decent working conditions.
Having tried without success to persuade platforms such as and TripAdvisor to include working conditions as part of how they rate hotels, Las Kellys, Spain’s indefatigable chambermaids’ organisation, is setting up its own booking platform.
Last week its crowdfunding campaign surpassed the minimum €60,000 required to set up the website and mobile app and is on target to reach the maximum goal of €90,000.
“We want to usher in a new era of tourism where people’s working conditions and their humanity are above economic interests,” said Las Kellys spokesperson Vania Arana.
To meet Las Kellys’ criteria, hotels must respect the national agreement on pay and conditions, comply with health and safety regulations, have an equal pay policy, employ vulnerable people and employ the chambermaids in-house.
Las Kellys – the name is a play on las que limpian (the women who clean) – began as a WhatsApp group in 2014. The members formed an association in 2016 and then, frustrated by the indifference of the union that was supposed to represent its interests, the Barcelona group founded a trade union, Sindicato Las Kellys Cataluña.
There are groups in Spain’s major cities as well as in the Balearic and Canary Islands and resorts such as Benidorm.
The movement arose in response to the growing tendency of hotels, the big chains in particular, to outsource workers to agencies. One of Las Kellys’ complaints is that these agencies employ them as cleaners, who under national pay agreements are paid less than chambermaids.
Until fairly recently, hotels employed their chambermaids as staff, and as such they were protected by an agreement that guarantees them a monthly wage of €1,200 (£1,025) for a 40-hour week, as well as sickness and maternity benefits.
While some outsourced contracts may appear to offer the same pay and conditions, there is a catch: they also specify how many rooms have to be completed during a six-hour shift, on average between 25 and 30, which is not humanly possible.
As a result, the workers put in unpaid overtime to meet their quota, bringing their hourly rate down to €3 or €4, below the minimum wage. If they fail to meet their quota, they are sacked.
The pandemic, which saw hotels forced to close, threw into stark relief these women’s precarious working conditions. In many cases the agencies handling the outsourced work didn’t bother to apply to the furlough scheme and simply closed the business, said Arana.
“About 16,000 colleagues who had contracts to work the summer months were left high and dry and unable to claim anything,” she said.
The women were forced to survive on food banks and charity from community groups and the church. The government only offered a one-off payment of €1,000, and that only if they earned less than €400 a month.
“I couldn’t claim furlough because my husband was receiving it, €900 a month, and I only say that because I’m one of the lucky ones,” Arana said.
Now hotels have reopened the situation is even worse, she says.
“A woman came to us because an agency was paying her €39 for more than eight hours a day. She told them: ‘I’m going to report you to the Kellys,’ and as soon as we wrote to them, they sacked her.”
Another trick is to employ people on a two-week trial and then get rid of them at the end of the trial period, she said.
Arana points out that, while they have Spanish members, the majority are immigrants from Latin America, eastern Europe and Africa.
“There are a lot of African women,” she says. “Hotels like them because they often speak English. They prefer single mothers because they’re easier to exploit.”
While the technical people get the app and website up and running ready for the new year, Las Kellys will be approaching hotels to see if they meet its criteria in order to offer bookings via the app.
“I would say to people, if you’re looking for a hotel, look for one where there are humane working conditions and think about exploitation,” says Arana. “The only thing that outsourcing has brought us is sickness, a huge workload and, ultimately, social and economic poverty.”


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