In a cheap spot of bigot-appeasing electioneering, last year Labour’s shadow immigration minister had a cheeky pop at those dreadful foreigners who come over here and steal our jobs on hotel receptions.
Bemoaning the number Estonians and Latvians handing out check-in forms and room keys, Chris Bryant said: “‘It would be nice sometimes when you go into a British hotel if the receptionist was British.”
Bryant, it seems, thinks the hospitality industry should be investing in training schemes that will set unemployed Brits along the fine career path of manning reception desks.
Yet a quick job hunt shows what the real problem is. According to Stafffinders, “the starting salary for hotel receptionist jobs is around £11,000.” Even with the most generous interpretation, that only just hits the minimum wage. And that’s often recompense for working some horribly anti-social shifts.
But it gets better – Stafffinders says experienced hotel receptionists are “earning around £13,000”. Why would someone enter a training programme – Travelodge’s scheme pays minimum wage and requires a two year commitment, even if you’re attempting to survive in on that money – to earn that much at the end?
The simple answer is that you wouldn’t. If you’re going to enter a two year training programme, you’ll expect a higher salary at the end of it. And you’ll not be working on reception – you’ll be in lower level management at the very least.
Home Office figures from 2008 show that 23% of workers in the hotel and restaurant industries are born overseas – a figure that’s perhaps surprisingly low. It’s just that the overseas-born workers are in the lower level jobs – and hotel receptionist falls into that category.
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I’m reminded of an incident in Loughborough kebab shop, in which a drunken customer decided to berate the poor chap slicing sweating meat off the elephant leg. “You come over here, taking our jobs,” he bellowed, almost certainly overestimating the demand from British citizens for work in kebab shops at 1am on a Saturday morning.
That there are so few British hotel receptionists is actually a sign of relative economic prosperity. The same pattern will apply in wealthy nations all over the world – good luck trying to find an Emirati receptionist in Dubai, Mr Bryant – and it applies to most low-paid jobs. Locals will turn their nose up at them, and train for something better paid if at all possible. Immigrants from countries with much lower average wages will gleefully fill the gaps.
And, frankly, immigrants prepare to come to theand work hard are a benefit to our society rather than a scourge on it. If they can speak English and do the job properly, what is the issue?
If Mr Bryant is really that obsessed with having British receptionists in British hotels, perhaps he should change his target to the travelling public. If people were prepared to pay significantly more for their hotel stays, then everyone at the hotel could be well paid, and the jobs there would be seen as attractive rather than borderline slavery.
So hands up who wants to pay more for their hotel room? Yes, thought so…
This article was originally written for MSN Travel.
All content copyright David Whitley.