WITH the General Election approaching fast, the next few weeks of On the Picket Line will have a special focus on what workers across Scotland want to see from a new Government in Westminster.

We’ll be talking to reps from different sectors to understand more about the issues affecting them, and the action they want to see from politicians.

We’re starting with the hospitality sector, which is made up of around 122,000 full-time workers and 107,000 part-time workers in Scotland.

For many of us, our working lives started in the hospitality industry, and many of the trade unionists I’ve spoken to have said their experience working here has led to them joining a union.

The National: Unite has voted to maintain its historic links with Labour – as its chief warned party leader Sir Keir Starmer to listen to the union’s demands amid a rift between the two organisations (PA)

Hospitality workers in Scotland are represented by Unite Hospitality, who most recently ran successful campaigns gaining landmark union recognition at The Stand’s comedy clubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The union has also been involved at the 13th Note live music venue, where workers were sacked after going on strike, and is currently campaigning for workplaces to divest from Israeli companies in the wake of the crisis in Gaza.

Hospitality workers hold real power over commodities

On Monday night, the union’s Glasgow branch organised a benefit gig in St Luke’s, with acts such as Frankie Boyle, Josie Long, Tina Sandwich and Theo Bleak performing, headlined by Declan Welsh and the Decadent West.

The National: The night aimed to raise money for Islamic Help, with the funds going towards sending a surgeon to Gaza. Before the soundcheck had even taken place, the event had already raised more than £10,000.

Those in attendance were reminded of their power as hospitality workers, who facilitate almost every transaction and exchange of commodities that takes place in society.


Declan Welsh speaking ahead of a benefit gig organised by Unite Hospitality to raise money for Gaza 🇵🇸

♬ original sound - Lucy

At the forefront of action in divesting from Israeli companies is The Stand, where workers are already refusing to serve Israeli fresh produce alongside their drinks.

The National:

It was a night filled with hope and a desire for change. But do hospitality workers feel the same way about the General Election?

Derek Thomson, Unite’s Scottish secretary, told The National that action must be taken by the future Government to address the exploitation of workers in the sector.

It comes as Labour’s plans for workers remain up in the air, as senior figures in the party have produced contradictory statements about the future of Labour’s New Deal for Working People.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has denied that the deal – which aims to ban zero-hour contracts and the practice of fire and rehire – will be “watered down”, after it was reported that many of the measures were being weakened to appease business owners.

The National: Sir Keir Starmer

"Hospitality workers are the lowest paid and contractually the most insecure group of workers in the economy,” Thomson said.

“Measures must be brought forward which address exploitative practices in the sector, and this must include banning zero-hour contracts and fire and rehire tactics used by employers.

“Thousands of hotel and restaurant workers have been made redundant only to be brought back on lesser terms and conditions, which is unacceptable.

“More stringent action against employers who flagrantly flout minimum wage legislation must also be brought forward.”

Thomson pointed towards the uncertainty workers face in the hospitality industry – particularly as many workers work on a part-time basis or on zero-hour contracts – adding that “the nature of the sector means that many workers don’t legally have the opportunity for a trade union to negotiate wage agreements on their behalf”.

He added: “Stronger and better protections for hospitality workers have to be introduced which allow workers to collectively challenge rogue employers and deal with the loopholes in the law.”