Union launches rival booking app to show working conditions of hotel staff in Spain

Las Kellys plans to create its own booking app

Andy Gregory
Wednesday 01 September 2021 22:43
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<p>A staff member cleans surfaces at a hotel near Heathrow Airport</p>

A staff member cleans surfaces at a hotel near Heathrow Airport

A union is launching a new booking platform allowing tourists choosing a hotel in Spain to see the working conditions for cleaning staff there.

Las Kellys, the formidable Spanish chambermaids’ union, plans to create its own booking app, after failed attempts to convince the likes of Tripadvisor to display details of working conditions alongside hotel ratings.

The group – whose name is a play on las que limpian, which translates to “those who clean” – first emerged from social media groups in 2014, eventually forming an association two years later.

They have since vocally challenged and embarrassed hotels over their employment practices and gained increasing political clout, managing to secure the ear of the conservative former prime minister Mariano Rajoy before eventually launching a campaign in 2018 to urge booking websites and hotels to use their “fair labour and quality seal”.

In an extension of this campaign, Las Kellys launched a crowdfunding effort in July to create their own booking platform promoting hotels awarded with this quality seal. They have already surpassed their minimum target of €60,000 and are just over €5,000 short of their their optimum goal of €90,000.

They are aiming to launch their new “reservation centre” in 2022.

With the new platform, Las Kellys hope to “inaugurate a new era of tourism based on respect, beauty and well-being, which puts human interests before commercial ones throughout the planet”, according to their crowdfunding page.

“We are going to show that putting human interests before commercial ones is profitable, it generates wealth, happiness, peace, trust and love in people,” the campaign states.

Hotel cleaners with full-time contracts were previously paid €1,200 per month as a result of a sector-wide agreement, also receiving sickness and maternity benefits.

But labour market reforms by the Spanish government in 2012 made it legal for hotels – many of whom then sacked their cleaning staff – to subcontract cleaning work to agencies.

Agency salaries are some 40 per cent lower, Las Kellys have previously said. Meanwhile, quotas often demanding staff clean around 20 to 30 rooms per six-hour shift can mean that they end up working several hours for free each day in order to avoid being fired – effectively further driving their pay down further, sometimes reportedly to as little as €1.25 per room cleaned, before tax and other deductions.

“Without clean rooms, a hotel does not have a product. But we are invisible, despite being 30 per cent of a hotel’s staff,” the leader of Las Kellys’ Madrid branch, Angeles Munoz, told the BBC in 2017.

The union hopes that, “since hotels depend on reservations for their business”, their new booking platform will give them “the upper hand to impose decent working conditions”.

In order to qualify for Las Kellys’ quality seal, hotels must permit union members to inspect their hotels, comply with tourism sector regulations, not outsource or subcontract the “core work” of their business, offer equal pay for men and women, hire people who are part of vulnerable groups, and have measures in place to promote stable and quality work.

The group has also long campaigned for a “Kellys law” that bans subcontracting of cleaning services.

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