IF NOT FOR THE UNION: A personal realization.

By: Anne Lota Belandres

The sad news that Makati Shangri-la Hotel is closing this February indubitably exemplifies what the Pandemic can cause to the hotel and tourism business. The once elegant and busy hotel considered to be one of the business district’s pride that stood for almost three decades announced that they are temporarily calling it off as it yields to financial pressures inflicted by the lockdown. Surely, the Shangri-la Group is hurt, the stakeholders is hurt, the Department of Tourism is hurt, yet I wonder, what about the employees, the most important resource and the most vulnerable member of the company?

Staying in Business

In a not so radical move as Shangri-la’s, many hotels made measures to stay afloat by reducing costs, and again I ask, who is the most vulnerable to these measures? Notable among these popular hotels are Okada, City of Dreams, Resorts World, where I have personal friends who were retrenched.

As I ponder how lucky I am as I still have a job in a 5-star hotel, it did not escape my mind to notice that the hotels that either retrenched or closed temporarily do not have a Union. Could it have made any difference?

My answer to that is a big YES. Non Union workers are hired at will, they are not protected by a union contract- that is the basis they can be fired for no particular reason.  Union is an umbrella, a perfect metaphor- the way an umbrella protects you from too much sun and rain so goes with the union. You’ll feel safe knowing there are people behind you looking after your safety and welfare.

Management and Union Working Together

The Union as we know it, protects the welfare of the workers. It is why they go through tedious process of collective bargaining agreement- to make sure that the best interest of workers  are well thought of and protected. If there is one positive realization that this Pandemic brought to Union and Management relationship is that talking and working together to surmount and overcome common adversary proves absolute and necessary. The crisis  brought all the hotel workers` confidence on their tenure in shatters.  Not all were lucky and had to be retrenched. It has been a difficult year for the tourism industry. Workers are constantly living in fear, worry and depression as their bread and butter might no longer be.

What My Union Is Doing

The NATIONAL UNION OF WORKERS IN HOTEL RESTAURANT AND ALLIED INDUSTRIES (NUWHRAIN), the Union where I belong to, did not fail to exemplify the very core of what being a Union is. Since the Pandemic started they have continuously worked making sure all benefits are being met.  Even though the times are difficult, their employees get to feed their families, pay the bills and live a decent life- far from their usual lifestyle but at least they’re surviving this crisis.  Their health benefits did not stop.  The benefits that were agreed upon in the CBA all materialized. There were perks that needed to be toned down but the members are more than happy to be getting what mattered most.

What am I getting at? I’m making a very salient point that UNION matters in more ways than we can imagine. They have a powerful tool that moves people and lives. The Union gives us tangible and intangible benefits often taken for granted but we saw to it in this time of Pandemic, we felt the UNION.

To end, I’d like to quote Nelson Mandela to signify how the Union cares for its members as I experience it,  “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

Mabuhay ang Uring Manggagawa!

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