Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Westin Hotel workers vow to fight for every job

Heartbreaking stories from Westin workers- STUFF VIDEO HERE

Westin Hotel workers, organised by the Unite Union, have issued a press release saying they have "vowed to fight for every job".

The union is setting up a picket line outside the hotel today.

"These workers are asked to pay the price for a dispute between two wealthy and powerful groups. Many of these overseas investors have never even visited this hotel, yet its Auckland's workers who must pay the price for their greed. The workers say enough," said Unite Union's Campaigns Officer Joe Carolan in the release.

Meanwhile the organiser of one of Auckland's most glamorous events is reassuring the industry after the collapse of the management company that runs the Westin.

Just over half of the ritzy five-star Westin Hotel on Auckland's Lighter Quay will be off-limits to guests after a fight between receivers and suite owners.

Fashion week founder Pieter Stewart has moved to reassure guests of Fashion Week, who have rooms booked in the hotel they won't be affected when the event kicks off later this month.

The Westin Hotel is an elite sponsor of Fashion Week.

Stewart said organisers had booked about 30 VIP guests into the hotel for the September 21 - 25 event, and expected that a host of other people attending the event also had bookings there.

"As far as I know - the conversations we have had this morning they (the Westin) can (accommodate the guests), so that's all I can tell you."

Tourism Auckland chief executive Graeme Osbourne said he was confident that there would be minimal disruption to the overall sector as a result of the problems at the Westin.

"I think as with most receiverships this is a messy business. And I think there are always people who are affected and hurt by these business defaults. So what's happening is not in any way surprising," he said.

"In the broader context of South Canterbury Finance and a rail strike in Paris that coincided with the final of Rugby World Cup in 2007, I think it's a fairly small and manageable issue," said Osbourne.

"And I'm confident and hopeful that it's an issue that will be resolved quite quickly. Because the property did have significant bookings for Rugby World Cup 2011.

"So given that we are in excess of 12 months out from Rugby World Cup 2011, that supports my confidence and my hope that this will be resolved fully and completely in the near term."

Asked if there was a risk that potential visitors might get a poor impression of the Auckland tourism scene from the Westin receivership, Osbourne said international travellers tended to sophisticated.

"I think the global experience is littered with incidents and events like this, I think most people would be able to rationalise it to the place it belonged," said Osbourne.

"I honestly don't believe it will cause a huge amount of disruption or concern."

It is unclear whether any events associated with Fashion week will be affected by the receivership.

"You would have to ask the Westin because it's their business not ours, we don't handle the after parties," Stewart said.

When asked whether the elite sponsorship of the event by the hotel remained, Stewart said she hadn't been told otherwise.

Westin general manager Marcus Reinders was unavailable for comment.

Receivers KordaMentha yesterday confirmed they were shedding 99 staff from the hotel.

"We are disappointed that the court action and resulting reduction in the number of rooms, has meant full staff levels simply can't be sustained," Michael Stiassny said.

Unite said no redundancy pay has been offered to people who had given long years of loyal service- many workers of whom had young families to support, and some who were pregnant.

"It is morally repugnant that these hard working people are now thrown on the scrapheap without any assistance, whilst Canterbury Finance is bailed out by a billion dollars of tax payers money."

Unite's Joe Carolan said the Westin workers had resolved to fight for their jobs, and were calling on the Government and Auckland's community leaders to intervene with the same urgency afforded 'Canterbury Finance'.

"Real jobs in the hotel sector, in the run up to the World Cup, are more important than the greed of bankers, investors and property pyramid speculator," said Carolan.

"Workers are prepared to stand and fight, and occupy this hotel if necessary. We will see them get justice". said Unite's Hotel Organiser, Desmond Leota.

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