Employees in hospitality industry in Rwanda that compiles together hotels, restaurants and bars face various challenges and violence that still hinder the development of the sector. The challenges faced by workers are not reported because some of them want to secure their jobs.
Most of known cases they experience include physical assaults and sexual harassment committed by their employers or clients.
These issues coupled some time with illegal dismissal at work or loss of salaries are the ones girls working in hotels use to experience even before Covid-19 pandemic. It requires strong interventions by Trade Unions in order to raise these issues for adequate and appropriate solutions.
Jean Christophe Cyubahiro, Secretary-General of SYNHOREB, a trade union that represents all workers from the tourism & hospitality sector in Rwanda explains that this trade union started in 2011 and learnt various circumstances and lifestyles of workers in hotels, bars and restaurants.
Cyubahiro himself had worked in these services and; together with his colleagues started the trade union to advocate for the issues that deprive workers of their values and rights.
“I was working for one of the hotels in this country, with my colleagues who were hotels and restaurant managers as well as other professionals in this sector, we met and discussed how to tackle existing challenges in the profession in order to strive for development. We wanted to conduct adequate advocacy for workers in the sector as Tourism was a growing industry by then.” He said.
The trade union started as association and later became a trade union after being trained and supported by Rwanda Workers’ Trade Union Confederation (CESTRAR).
Cyubahiro said that since the past, hospitality was not a valuable industry and workers used to lose their salaries and face physical and psychological assaults.
He said that fortunately, the situation has changed where the government intervened in promoting the industry.
“We are thankful to our government as they intervened in changing the mindset of employers and amending the labour law, where Rwanda Development Board (RDB) helps in transforming hospitality industry, we are also seeing graduates who bring innovations that also help in boosting the sector.” He noted.
“One of the biggest challenges is mindset of employers and some workers but we are working on these issues for common development.” He added.
Imposing girls to wear miniskirts
Cyubahiro said that some employers who oblige girls to wear miniskirts are advised to not have that mindset and obligations to the workers.
“Many people have mindset that when a girl wears a miniskirt hooks client, but this is negative, it is depriving her of her values, we do not take it like selling beer and food, but it is like selling girls on the other hand, our penal code states punishment of this, we report the cases to concerned levels to follow and punish offenders.” Cyubahiro added.
He said however that some girls like to wear miniskirts to attract men.
“We have in our responsibilities to educate them and ask employers to give them uniforms, I do not understand how an employer can impose a miniskirt to the worker while himself or herself is a parent who can teach good values to children.” Cyubahiro said.
Sexual harassment by clients
Cyubahiro also said that some clients do not respect workers where they touch girls on their parts of the body.
“This is also among the challenges we have; no one could use his power of money to undermine the value of workers in hospitality industry, I thank Rwandan Police and Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) as well as the justice sector for their adequate intervention when these cases happen. We have reported some cases to responsible entities,” he noted.
He added that there are many other cases of violence committed by employers against their workers where girls can be illegally dismissed by their bosses after denying forced sex by clients in room services.
He advises whoever has faced such a violence to call responsible entities for interventions.
“Sometimes it also happens that a girl is obliged to offer sex as corruption before being hired by some hotels’ managers. We are doing advocacy on this issue in order to end it.”
Some of the reasons that can lure girls into such violence remains low salary according to Cyubabiro. “Small hotels and lodges have lower cases than big hotels.” he said.
Byagatonda, a hotel personnel in Rwamagana district, Eastern Province said that these challenges happen where he is working.
Another man from Kabarondo Sector, Kayonza District said that one of the reasons that cause the violence is that many workers have not job experience and accept everything to secure their jobs.
“Hotel owners should hire professional workers who must report any case of violence,” he noted.
SYNHOREB has a mission of Promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of all workers from tourism and hospitality sector among others. Its vision is to create the best future of workers in the tourism and hospitality.