News

Responsive image

MARCH 21ST 2017

Ethically Sourced, Free Range Staff?


BY TOM ALABASTER

staffing, hotel, restaurant, Hospitality

Ethical, Free Range, Organic, Welfare Assisted, Sustainably Sourced, Rainforest Alliance Staff? Is this the inevitable comparison hospitality needs to make?


We’ve spent many years transforming the way we feel about our Poultry, Cattle, Seafood & Food Produce generally… This came from the heart, a sense of responsibility and notably the demand of the consumer much more than a nanny state approach.

The issue and cost to business of a rising Minimum Wage and “Uncertain Times” are giving rise to more Agency Workers, increased Contract work, the technically- but more and more dubiously Self-Employed and The Gig Economy. In recent years this would seem to have gradually taken our workforce in the opposite direction.

The Gig economy to a point has removed the responsibility of employment from many conveyancers and "users" of people. In recent court case scenarios, this lack of emotional, moral and legal support or rights for the “Workers” has clearly begun to cast a shadow over business models that rely on the “Self-employed” and the “Zero-Houred” workforce, those that haven't been charged with offences seem in some cases to be on the verge of mutiny.

The chancellors increased tax on the self-employed, and subsequent U-turn speaks volumes on how the government feels about the sustainability of an economic model that doesn’t quite work. (Or pay enough National Insurance contributions for the services it has come to require to live)

There is a broad acknowledgement that the minimum wage is not going to raise the living standards of those who work for it- and allowing people who are desperate to get to this level only to do it under the cloak of self-employment is also a challenging moral model for society to swallow.

So as this “self-employment” grows and the lack of pension provisions, holiday allowances and the presence of a caring and human welfare angle within the companies that provide the platforms to work, what will be the knock-on effect?

It is much considered that a struggle to grow begins to erode the mental health, the lack of provision for the future in the form of access to essential tools like pensions compounds this.

Add to this a lack of holiday provision for the self-employed which discourages people from taking time off too- are we actively fuelling exhaustion and burnout? Let’s not mention dreams of maternity and paternity allowances to afford the time off to raise families and create foundations for real work life balance.

In a new year when a list of hospitality operators has already been named and shamed for failing to apply the National Minimum Wage by the letter of the law, it seems that as an industry we have a way to go on this.

At the Casual Dining Show at the BDC in London recently a presentation from the ALMR predicted as a sector within hospitality we will need to add 1.3million to our workforce by 2024.

This will require a massive charm offensive from all operators and the genuine will to dig deep on competitive wages and implementation for many of real welfare and employment benefits to retain this talent. The sector will not be able to tempt a shrinking pool of potential workers with an offer of self-employment or with exclusive zero hour contracts.

Flexibility will need to be a 2-way street and guarantees of good hourly rates that beat minimum wage on more than a technical level, plus provisions for Holiday and Pensions will be a must.

So how long will it be before our guests start voting with our feet?

It goes to the very heart of the question about if this pool of gig workers is “sustainably sourced”. There is no doubt that in the right numbers, for the right personalities at the right time of their life, flexibility is king. But if the aim is to be corporately competitive and create platforms that drive down the cost of the human we are definitely on a dangerous path.

We the consumer pay a premium because we trust that the Chickens were looked after.. they were fed the right food, and they got to live in a way that soothes our conscience.

We choose the vendors of these ethical Chickens and ask that they prove the lengths they go to in ensuring they are indeed organic or sustainably sourced and that all the necessary welfare provisions have been made. 

As an industry, we are fun, we do Enable Amazing Experiences and we can give the progression in careers that Enable Amazing Lives- appealing to the next wave of young potential operators will be the real trick, though, and…

How popular will the Food Vendors, Bars, Restaurants & Hotels that prove they ethically source their staff be when the costs filter through?...

...Maybe not as unpopular as those that are found out to have chosen the battery farmed alternative.