Everyone knows that the profession of cafes, restaurants and hotels (CHR) encounters – among all its constraints – a huge employment problem. Finding staff, then motivating them, retaining them, and finally keeping them are a constant concern. It’s quite simple, this sector is no longer attractive at all and staff turnover is impressive.

CHR are the French business sector which employs the most young salaried staff (46% are under 30). Unfortunately, they and older people go there but do not stay there. And what can we say when we know that more than 2/3 of former students of hotel schools, thus trained in these professions, left the CHR less than five years after the year of their diploma. There is no smoke without fire. The UMIH and the GNC (National Group of Chains) have just published a manifesto on the CHR for the attention of the future government which will be formed after the presidential election. They want to “carry the torch of the French tourism industry to a high level” and put forward proposals for this.

At the same time as this manifesto with its victorious and incantatory tones is published, employees of cleaning companies who work as subcontractors for hotel chains are going on strike. These chambermaids can no longer have to adopt a rate of 4.25 rooms to clean per hour . Paid at the minimum wage (of course), this amounts to paying 1.80 € uros net per room. This is indeed a trace of our modern slavery and the hotels affected by these sordid working conditions are fatally complicit. With around 10 minutes (useful time) to redo a blank room, it is not surprising that 58% of budget hotel customers find that the rooms are lacking in cleanliness ( source Coach Omnium studies ).

But the discomfort is not only in the budget hotels. Should we recall the recent strikes in the large Parisian hotels and palaces where their staff demanded an increase in salaries and other improvements in their working environment? And the repeated strikes by undocumented migrants in restaurants? Some believe that the CHR would be the contemporary kingdom of the Thenardiers.

Facade social progress

The president of the UMIH seems to ignore all these events and the bad social climate that reigns in the CHRs. He explains without laughing ( L’Hôtellerie-Restauration of April 3, 2012 ): “I believe that in terms of social dialogue, the profession has made giant strides over the past 10 years thanks in particular to the reduction in VAT in the catering industry. The various contracts signed with the Public Authorities (growth contract and contract for the future) have made it possible to significantly improve the working conditions of our employees (remuneration, working time, provident and health care plan, bonuses ,…). ” We would gladly takethis triumphant announcement for a bad joke, if all the new measures were not so ridiculous. In reality, French hotels and restaurants have socially passed from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. Little closer to the 21 st century. And that is indeed his misfortune.

Because the staff no longer wants to be made fun of with false allegations and promises, in a profession that is not conventional enough for them, by their working hours, by the low wages offered, by staggered rest days, by the obligation to serve and work hard, by the low consideration received by many employers and, on the whole, by the degradation of the image of the sector vis-à-vis the public. It’s quite simple: hotels and restaurants are no longer fashionable on the job market! This results in an obvious loss of energy on the part of the professionals, who always have to look for staff and suffer endemic absenteeism. This results in a dilution of potential profitability and a strong weakening of companies.

It should be remembered that the CHR are champions in terms of the number of minimum wage earners employed. Nearly 36% of the salaried workforce are on minimum wage (or just like) in the hotel-catering-tourism industry. But they are 42% only in the hotel and catering industry – against 21% in clothing and 17% in commerce (sources DARES). Still in the CHR, more broadly, nearly 70% earn less than 120% of the minimum wage. Where is the social progress so much vaunted by the UMIH and its rival the Synhorcat? The UMIH / GNC go even further by asking in their manifesto that we maintain the reductions in charges on low wages. It is suddenly maintaining low wages by ripple effect, so that employers can receive bonuses. It is therefore an infernal spiral which favors social pauperization in the CHR, and the patent and ineluctable rejection by the employees. Because, if we could possibly understand this request for aid on low wages for micro-enterprises in difficulty, it is much more difficult to justify in hotels and chain restaurants, as well as in large establishments which generally do not have no economic problem.

Social elevator failure

As for the social elevator that employers’ organizations speak so vehemently about, it no longer exists. This sector employs a very low proportion of managers. Only 9% have this status against 19% in the whole service sector. It is therefore an elevator that leads to almost no floor. The level of diploma of employees and supervisors in the hotel and restaurant industry is low: 34% of the workforce has no diploma (or only the college certificate) and 22% have a CAP or a BEP. But it is now rare that they can access significant promotions, unlike the period before the 2000s.

The difficulty in obtaining social promotion consequently demotivates young people, who think they can find better elsewhere. The revaluation of salaries in the sector, which took place in 2011, with a few hourly cents more than on the common minimum wage, made the president of Synhorcat (another employers’ union of CHR) say, taken in heart by his “colleagues”: “he there are no longer any smicards in the CHR “(sic). Employees in the sector, looking at their payslips (when however they are declared), rub their eyes to see this progress – so strongly announced – in their remuneration. This announcement effect is of course one more deception, which only exacerbates social and employability problems. Thus, the employers’ organizations of the CHR dig a little more each year the grave of the sector.   

CHRs employ just under a million people, or 4% of the entire French economy, of which 84% are employees. It’s massive. However, the hotel and catering industry is the sector that makes people work the longest, at more than 35 hours / week: this is the case in 37.2% of companies with more than 10 employees against 8.7% in the all French companies (source DARES). And again, these are only official sources, because we know very well that many employers do not point their staff and that the conventional 39 hours are often more worked in 3 to 4 days than in a week … From suddenly, working for many years for the same company is rare in the CHR: 37% of people have been in their job for less than a year. The profession is distinguished by a very high mobility or turnover. In 2009, for 100 people in employment,

As for training , if only 2 independent hotel establishments in 10 devote themselves to it (and less than 1 restaurateur in 10), 1/3 of these training courses – only – are given to employees. Here again, the social elevator is out of order.  

So rather than wanting again and again to pay badly and treat / consider the staff of CHRs and then complain about not finding employees, wouldn’t it be worth promoting the trades? Is it any wonder that 60 to 70,000 job vacancies are unfilled each year in the hotel and catering industry? The UMIH and the GNC speak of “making the working conditions of employees more attractive” . Is. But what have they done about it so far and in their manifesto they don’t say how they think they can get there …

There are probably many ways to make staff want to work in our “houses”, but which nevertheless require questioning the practices inherent in the profession. Beyond a necessary increase in remunerations, why not transform servers into room salesmen, rather than leaving them as simple carriers of plates? Why not encourage young chefs to be able to express themselves in their inventiveness rather than turning them into mechanical performers under the creative domination (well not always) of the chef? Reception staff may also be more trained and motivated to know how to sell and take initiatives that are often prohibited. As for the floor staff,

In the end, it would benefit the customers and the profitability of each business. In the meantime, low salaries and a serious lack of management / training are damaging the competitiveness of the hotel and restaurant industry. Thus, 42% of travelers find that the staff of French hotels is not competent or / and professional, and 38% of restaurant customers complain of the chronic incompetence of the staff, an unpleasant reception or even a impersonal welcome, according to studies by Coach Omnium . This is all very bad for the business. And the UMIH / GNC manifesto looks like the barrel of the Danaïdes.
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