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Workers reject Hyatt’s job offer

Fired housekeepers vote down proposal for temp positions

By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / September 29, 2009

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The Boston-area housekeepers who were fired by Hyatt Hotels Corp. sent a clear message yesterday about the company’s offer to put them in new jobs at a staffing agency: They don’t plan to accept it.

The housekeepers chanted “No way, Hyatt,’’ at a press conference yesterday afternoon after 77 of the 98 fired workers voted to reject the Hyatt’s proposal to put them in jobs at a staffing organization that Hyatt uses for contract labor. The vote took place at a two-hour meeting earlier in the day at the Unite Here, Local 26 union office.

“We want our jobs back, nothing else,’’ said Lucine Williams, who worked at the downtown Hyatt for nearly 22 years. “We will not accept temp positions that are designed to put others out of work.’’

In a statement yesterday, Hyatt said the housekeepers had only received information about the job offers yesterday and it was giving them “a meaningful amount of time’’ to consider the offers.

“We remain encouraged by the feedback we continue to receive about offering a new and fair approach,’’ said Phil Stamm, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Boston.

Hyatt spokeswoman Farley Kern added that the hotel company had secured positions, separate from Friday’s offer, for four of the dismissed housekeepers, but she declined to describe the jobs.

The Hyatt’s Aug. 31 move to fire the Boston housekeepers, who made about $15 an hour, and immediately replace them with subcontracted workers who make half as much, sparked an uproar, prompting businesses to cancel conventions and Governor Deval Patrick to threaten a state boycott of the hotel chain if the housekeepers’ jobs weren’t restored.

On Friday, Hyatt offered the fired housekeepers positions with Chicago-based United Service Cos. If they accept one of these jobs at a hospital, hotel, or shopping center, the housekeepers will get their Hyatt rate of pay through the end of next year and their Hyatt health care benefits through the end of March. Those who don’t take the jobs will be offered career assistance and training while receiving their Hyatt wages through the end of March or until they find a permanent job.

But Hyatt’s offer did not satisfy some of the workers from Hyatt Re gency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and the Hyatt Harborside as they stood at the conference alongside six Boston city councilors, including Bill Linehan. “I know what it feels like to push a mop, a broom, to clean the lavatories, and how you get treated,’’ said Linehan, talking about his experience working as a housekeeper.

Fired housekeeper Mayra Arriaga, 36, who worked at the Hyatt Harborside for seven years, said she is worried about how she’s going to pay the rent and support her four children, but she said a job with a staffing company is not enough.

Williams, who has become the main spokeswoman for the housekeepers, said they had to stand up to Hyatt. “If we let them get away with it, I think about all the other families that work at hotels,’’ she said. “It’s the principle.’’

Unite Here, which represents hotel workers, also balked at the company’s proposal. Janice Loux, president of the union that held a rally earlier this month on behalf of the housekeepers even though they are not unionized, yesterday declared an immediate boycott against the Hyatt, promising to “aggressively go after Hyatt’s customers all across this country’’ and ask them not to do business with the hotel company.

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