One by one, Paris luxury hotels hit by strikes for better pay

[PARIS] After high-profile strikes at two upmarket hotels in Paris, it was the turn of employees at the luxury Royal Monceau-Raffles to protest Tuesday for a salary increase.

Exasperated over the low wages they earn working at glitzy hotels where one night can cost more than their annual salary, chamber maids, valets, bartenders, cooks and other employees in the French capital have taken to the streets.

Last month, workers at two Hyatt hotels were granted better salaries after days of protest and employees at the five-star Royal Monceau-Raffles, which belongs to Qatar's Katara Hospitality, are hoping to replicate their success.

"All we demand is a rise of two euros (US$2.50) an hour," said Sabrina Sedik, a chamber maid carrying a cardboard sign calling for "a decent salary, quite simply".

Married, Sedik said she earns 1,300 euros a month. By contrast, the presidential suite in the hotel costs 25,000 euros a night.

"Our luxury hotel is rapacious," "Excellence in service = mediocre salaries" read some of the banners branded by protesters in the upmarket 8th district of Paris near the Champs-Elysees, not normally used to marauding demonstrators.

"I've worked in this hotel for 15 years and my salary has never increased," said another maid, a mother-of-two who refused to give her name.

"We decided to go on strike because employees at other luxury hotels are better paid than us." Aside from a salary increase, employees at the hotel are also asking for better work conditions. Some of them have already been on strike for nearly three weeks.

Management at the Royal Monceau-Raffles refused to comment when contacted by AFP, but unions said it had already accepted some of the strikers' requests.

"This strike comes on the heels of protests in other hotels in Paris," said Karl Ghazi, a spokesman for the CGT union.

"It's a rising movement that risks spreading to other luxury hotels."

In September, chamber maids, valets and other employees at the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine hotel obtained a monthly pay rise of at least 500 euros after an eight-day strike.

That same month, workers at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome also got a significant salary increase after protesting against their low wages. AFP

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