España - San Ildefonso, La Granja, Segovia

Meeting of the IUF’s HRCT Professional Group

With Norberto Latorre

Transnational corporations get richer while workers grow poorer


The IUF’s Professional Group of Hotel, Restaurant, Catering and Tourism Workers will gather for a two-day meeting on April 10 through 11. Over a hundred unionists from around the world will meet at La Granja in Segovia, Spain to assess the issues and challenges faced by a sector that is continuously growing, but with its back turned on its workers. Sirel spoke with Norberto Latorre, president of the IUF’s HRCT Group, to learn about the goals of the meeting and the issues it will focus on.



-Tell us about the main problems that will be discussed at this meeting?

-To begin with, I’d like to underline that this conference will be the first opportunity in which the members of the Governing Committee of the HRCT Group will be participating, and that we have also invited unions that represent tourism, catering and hotel workers from around the world.

At the meeting we will examine the problems faced by workers in the hotel industry, which is clearly undergoing an increasing process of concentration at the hands of the transnational chains. We will also analyze the quality of the jobs generated by tourism and, naturally, we will define the challenges posed by the sector in terms of both social and environmental sustainability.

Lastly, we must continue with our collective work aimed at establishing labor strategies that will enable us to successfully overcome the challenges and problems faced globally by the sector and check the ambitions of transnational corporations that are seeking to profit more, at the expense of the quality of life of workers, trampling social gains.


-Tourism has experienced an exponential growth. In 1950 there was a total of 25 million international tourists, and by 2007 that number was up to 900 million. However, as you say, that growth is not translated into prosperity for workers, and we can even say that in terms of wages and working conditions we are definitely regressing.

-Yes, sadly the strategy of the new corporate management that is heading transnational corporations is fueled by the desire to obtain the quickest return on their investment. There is no place in that strategy for the well being of workers and the environment. When we speak of sustainable tourism, we see the concept as involving a search for ways to deal with these situations.

As you rightly point out, the sector has grown like no other, but workers are not earning enough, they work under fixed-term contracts or are hired by pseudo work cooperatives…


-Or they work under internship schemes…

-Exactly. In Argentina’s case, by law no more than 20 percent of the personnel can be engaged as interns, but in other countries such as Nicaragua, some hotels have up to 80 percent of their personnel in internship schemes.


-And all of this against the backdrop of a sector that is clearly taking on an antiunion attitude…

-That’s a very sensitive issue you’ve brought up. Through our work in the IUF’s HRCT group we are attempting to contribute to expand union coverage, to reduce the number of workers that are not unionized. We are well aware that to achieve that goal we have to overcome several obstacles, including the union discrimination policies that are implemented by many of the industry’s transnational corporations. But we are moving forward nonetheless, because it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the IUF’s strength and capacity for struggle.



From La Granja, Segovia, Gerardo Iglesias


April 8, 2008





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