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Hotel housekeeping: A hush-hush world of dirty secrets

Hotel housekeeping: A hush-hush world of dirty secrets

In interviews with current and former hotel housekeepers in Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Thailand, Oxfam Canada learned that hotels often don’t pay housekeepers enough to survive. They are made to work long hours with no overtime pay, and when it comes to sexual harassment and injuries on the job, the hotels often ignore these issues.

Profits in the global hotel industry are based on the systematic exploitation of housekeepers, the majority of whom are poor women living in fear of losing their jobs, says the new report by Oxfam Canada entitled, “Tourism’s Dirty Secret: The Exploitation of Hotel Housekeepers.”

One housekeeper in Punta Cana was hospitalized with severe vomiting, despite repeatedly complaining to her supervisor about exposure to toxic chemicals. In Toronto, housekeeper Lei Eigo was asked to deliver a pillow to a guest, only to be greeted by a naked man at the door.

Oxfam has warned the gap between the super-rich and everyone else is increasing at an unprecedented rate, disproportionately affecting women who make up the majority of the world’s poor. Consider it would take a housekeeper in Phuket, Thailand nearly 14 years to earn as much as the highest paid hotel CEOs make in a single day.

Such systematic exploitation is not inevitable. Oxfam’s report found when women have the ability to unionize, they earn decent wages and benefits, have greater job security, and experience less stress and fewer injuries. However, employer resistance and a climate of fear created by management make organizing in the hotel sector extremely difficult, particularly in developing countries.