Whitbread withdrawal from ethical workplace code ‘slap in the face’, says Unite

UK hospitality group Whitbread’s withdrawal from the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) just 18 months after it was granted foundation stage membership, is a “slap in the face” to its 50,000-strong UK workforce, trade union Unite has said.

The ETI board of directors were informed of the resignation of the Premier Inn and Costa Coffee owner at a board meeting last week (Thursday 14 September).

Unite has been highly critical of Whitbread’s apparent refusal in the last year to accept that the ETI’s nine ‘good labour practice’ codes apply equally to its directly employed UK workforce as to workers in its overseas supply chain. In particular, base code 2 on freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively.

Rhys McCarthy, Unite national officer said: “Whitbread’s resignation from the ETI is a snub to the workforce. We had high hopes that its membership would open the door to better union relations in the notoriously anti-union and exploitative UK hospitality sector.

“It is deeply disappointing that Whitbread would rather pull the plug on its application to become an accredited ETI member, than work with Unite to become a genuinely ethical and sustainable employer to its UK workforce.”

He added: “The UK hospitality industry is fundamentally unethical. It is built on low pay, long hours and exploitation; workers have few rights and little power. It’s time for the industry to stop seeing unions as ‘the enemy within’ and start working with us to change and improve the way it operates.”

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