Cambridge City Councilors are calling for a change to local licensing laws that would prohibit hotels from subcontracting housekeeping services after Hyatt Regency Cambridge fired its housekeepers last August and replaced them with lower paid subcontracted workers.
The council unanimously supported a resolution Monday asking the Cambridge License Commission, which oversees hotel licenses in the city, to make the policy switch.
City Councilor Marjorie Decker said the resolution is in reaction to the Hyatt’s decision to fire its housekeepers and hire a subcontractor to clean guestrooms. Hyatt abruptly fired a total of 98 housekeepers from the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, the Hyatt Harborside at Logan Airport, and the Hyatt Regency Boston on Aug. 31. The fired workers had been training their subcontracted replacements before they were let go. Many remained unemployed as recently as last week.
Decker said Hyatt “behaved very badly” and put the city on alert that hotels could subcontract cleaning services. But she said 99.9 percent of the hotels in Cambridge do not subcontract their housekeeping services.
“If anything, this affirms the practices of all the hotels in Cambridge except for the Hyatt,” Decker said.
City Councilor Ken Reeves called the firings by the Hyatt “offensive and unfair.”
“I’m not going to any more Hyatts,” Reeves said.
Although the housekeepers were not union members, Unite Here Local 26 has been supporting their cause, and union representatives asked the council Monday to pass the resolution.
“We’re very pleased that the city council has been supportive of the fired Hyatt workers,” Stephen Crawford, a spokesman for the union, said Tuesday.
Hyatt declined comment about the resolution. The company has said challenging economic conditions made the firings and outsourcing necessary.
Terence Smith, the director of government affairs for the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, told the council he’s concerned about more regulations being placed on the hotel industry, which generates $20 million in taxes for Cambridge each year. Smith said regulations should only be focused on public health and welfare issues.
Elizabeth Lint, the executive officer for the license commission, said Tuesday the resolution has been referred to the city’s law department for a legal opinion and has not been forwarded to the commission yet.