THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Hyatt extends benefits for fired workers

By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / September 22, 2009

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Hyatt Hotels & Resorts is extending the health care benefits of the 98 housekeepers who were fired from the three Boston-area Hyatt hotels last month, according to a statement from the company yesterday.

The fired workers’ health care benefits - originally set to expire at the end of September - have been extended until the end of the year. Hyatt also said it has committed to helping each housekeeper find a new job, “utilizing every commercially reasonable means available’’ and is creating a task force to assist the workers.

Hyatt spokeswoman Farley Kern said the details for each worker had not been worked out.

Hyatt has been caught in a firestorm of public criticism since the Globe revealed that the hotel company laid off the staff housekeepers at the Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and Hyatt Harborside Hotel on Aug. 31, citing challenging economic conditions, and replaced them with lower-paid workers from Georgia-based Hospitality Staffing Solutions.

The housekeepers said they were asked to train the staffing company’s employees, an assertion the staffing company denies.

The move to outsource housekeepers - generally the largest part of a hotel’s payroll - is an unusual one in the hotel industry, and there has been an outpouring of support for the fired workers, including a rally organized by the local hotel workers’ union and politicians calling for boycotts of the Hyatt.

The Hyatt statement included a quote from Phil Stamm, general manager of Hyatt Regency Boston: “We deeply regret whenever staff reductions are necessary. Throughout this difficult period we have treated our employees with dignity and respect, but certainly have not adequately communicated that commitment to the Boston community. The additional outplacement support initiatives we are providing through our task force underscore our concern for our affected employees.’’

Lucine Williams, who worked at the Hyatt Regency Boston for nearly 22 years until she was laid off, said she was grateful for the additional three months of health care but worried about her job prospects.

“For them to extend the benefits until the end of the year is a pretty good thing, but what happens afterward?’’

Katie Johnston Chase can be reached at johnstonchase@globe.com.