Interest and Involvement of Trade Unions in the Hotel Industry

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A research proposal by Keith Johnson and Ken Mignot.

Project title: Marketing Trade Unionism to Hotel Workers

Aims and Objectives:
The aim of this project is to assess the degree of interest and involvement shown by Trade Unions in the hotel industry. The specific objectives are:
• To determine the extent to which Trade Unions recognise hotel workers as a potential source of membership. • To identify the mechanisms by which Trade Unions market their services to potential members. • To identify successful and unsuccessful marketing approaches in relation to hotel workers. • To make recommendations as to how Trade Unions might improve their marketing efforts in relation to hotel workers.

These objectives will be achieved by addressing the following research questions: • Which Trade Unions are actively seeking to recruit hotel workers? • When did these Trade Unions become involved in this industry? • What resources do Trade Unions devote to recruiting hotel workers? • What proportion of Trade Union resources are used to benefit existing members as opposed to trying to recruit new members? Who decides on this resource allocation? • How do Trade Unions seek to recruit hotel workers?

• Is Trade Union membership increasing amongst hotel workers? • How successful have the recruitment initiatives of Trade Unions been in relation to hotel workers? • Which methods of recruiting hotel workers have been effective? • What factors contribute to a successful recruitment initiative? • Why are some recruitment initiatives more successful that others?

The context and background of the proposal:

The proposal is to concentrate on two unions: the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and the General and Municipal Workers Union (GMWU). These are the two main unions operating in the hotel industry and it is estimated that they account for approximately ninety per cent of existing union membership within this industry (Boella, 1974).

These two unions make for an interesting comparison since they are both general unions with large memberships covering a diverse range of industries. They both became involved with the hotel industry at approximately the same time and hence have had similar opportunities to grow and develop. Being general, rather than craft unions, they are both concerned with the numerical strength of their membership in order to secure bargaining power. In the past this numerical strength has been based upon manufacturing industries. However economic change has resulted in a decline in the workforces of many of the industries which traditionally provided them with membership. At the same time most service industries have been growing. If Unions are to stay in business it seems that they must market their “product” to the new emerging markets, the service industries. This project seeks to explore the success, or otherwise, of Trade Union efforts to market themselves to the employees of one service industry, the hotel industry.

Preliminary Literature Review
Membership of the GMWU amongst hotel workers can be traced back to the 1930’s, but membership at this time was concentrated or recognised as a bargaining force within the industry (GMWU, 1979). In 1947, following a dispute at the Savoy Hotel, the issue of recognition of this union in the industry came to a head (Dronfield and Soto, undated). An agreement was made at this time with the British Hotels Association (now BHRCA) indicting that the GMWU was a suitable union for hotel workers (Taylor, 1979). Since then the union’s perception of the industry as a market to be approached, tapped and developed has altered considerably. However, it has consistently placed most emphasis on playing a major part in the Institutions that regulate the industry. For example, in addition to its involvement with the BHRCA, the union has played an active part in the Hotel and Catering Industry Training Board (HCITB) and the Hotel and Catering Economic...
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