New York hotel workers' contract calls for panic buttons

New York hotel operators and their employees tentatively agreed to a new contract that will bring workers lucrative pay raises, full paid benefits, and sizable pension contributions.

All that -- and a personal panic button.   

In the wake of a hotel sexual assault scandal surrounding French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Lisa Linden, a spokeswoman for the Hotel Assn. of New York City, said there was “joint recognition” that hotel workers need protection.

“It’s something that has certainly been talked about for some time,” Linden said, adding that the Strauss-Kahn situation in New York “heightened the awareness of the issue.” 

John Turchiano, a spokesman for the New York Hotel Trades Council, said that over the years there have been problems with hotel guests acting inappropriately. Turchiano said that such incidents don’t happen often,  but cited examples of mini-bar attendants being asked if they would like to “make a little money” and hotel guests lying naked in bed when a housekeeper enters the room.  

“I firmly believe that the hotels are as concerned about the safety of their employees as the union is,” he said. “This was not a hard thing to come to an agreement over. It’s not an expensive thing. This is far from the most important part of the contact.”

The panic-button provision calls for hotel employees required to enter a guest room to be armed “with devices to be carried on their persons at work which they can quickly and easily activate to effectively summon prompt assistance to their location.”

Both Linden and Turchiano said that because of the varying size and layout of hotels, the contract would not prescribe any specific device hotels must provide.

Hotel operators must implement the provision by July 1, 2013, but Turchiano said the union expects many hotels to act earlier.

The workers won compound wage increases through the life of the contract, which expires in 2019. By June of that year, room attendants will be earning almost $60,000 a year, with full family medical, dental and optical benefits, according to a jointly issued news release from the union and hotel association.   


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