How many of you will be going out at least once over Christmas for food or drinks?
I’d put money on most of you.
While you are out laughing, joking, enjoying yourselves with friends and family… think about the people serving, preparing and cleaning up after your food and drinks. At this time of the year those people don’t get time off work, time with their loved ones, time to cabbage out in front of the tele after eating their body weight in sprouts.
Until 3 and a half years ago my boyfriend was a chef. It’s not just those that are working over Christmas that miss out, it’s also their husbands, girlfriends, children and parents. I found that out first hand.
But it’s not just at Christmas that we should turn our attention to those that work in hospitality. It is an industry with a very high turnover in staff. The contracts offered to employees verge on illegal. For instance, take the next 7 days, a Chef de Partie in a hotel could work the following shifts on a £17k annual salary.
- Wednesday – 6am-3pm
- Thursday – 10am – 10pm
- Friday – 10am – 11pm
- Saturday – off
- Christmas Eve – 5am-3pm
- Christmas Day – 8am – 8pm
- Boxing Day – off
- Wednesday – 10am-10pm
That’s 62 hours (taking into account a lunch break which most do not actually get). That works out at £5.30 an hour. Considering the national minimum wage for over 25’s in the UK is £7.50 and the maximum weekly working hours are 48… it’s pretty shoddy isn’t it?
I often write about slave labour, workers being exploited and unsafe working conditions. Many of the issues I write about are concerning overseas, mainly developing countries. But this is happening right here in the UK, on our doorsteps, and it is deemed ‘acceptable’.
We even watch programmes about it! We see Masterchef and Gordon Ramsay. We see kitchens operating under pressure, the use of violence and abusive language. Yet there seems to be no urgency to change the industry.
Don’t get me wrong, not all kitchens are like this. Some employers pay their staff well, give them decent hours and treat them right. But for the majority, long unsociable hours, low pay and uncomfortable working conditions are the norm.
So this Christmas (and the rest of the year) when you go out to eat or drink, treat those that serve you with the respect that they deserve.