That is one take on Hyatt's decision to fire nearly 100 housekeepers at three of its properties in Boston — Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge and Hyatt Harborside. The Boston Globe reports today that many of the staffers cleaning those hotel rooms had more than 20 years of experience at Hyatt. They earned about $15 an hour compared to the $8 rate their replacements from Hospitality Staffing Solutions, a Georgia outfit, will make. Adding insult to injury: fired staffers say they trained the replacements after being told they were vacation and holiday fill-ins. Hyatt denies that.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is making great political hay over the Hyatt massacre. He threatened Hyatt with a boycott by government workers when they are conducting official business for the Bay State. That boycott could catch fire and spread to other states. Does Hyatt want that national PR headache?
Via a statement on its website, Hyatt has slammed Patrick’s boycott, saying it threatens the 600 workers still lucky enough to have jobs at its properties in Massachusetts “at a time when businesses and individuals are cutting back on travel during the worst economic period we have seen in decades.” The hotel chain has established a task force to provide support for its former employees.
Hyatt’s decision to outsource its housekeeping staff may make financial sense, but it is a PR loser. How much is Hyatt really saving by lopping off 98 of its lowest paid workers? Nickels or dimes?
The savings will surely fail to offset the loss of business sparked by the firing. The National Employment Lawyers Assn., for instance, has canceled its contract at the Hyatt Boston Regency, where daily room rates are well north of $300. Others will follow.
And what about the Obama wild card? Chicago's Pritzker family controls Hyatt. The family has close ties with the President. Penny Pritzker chaired the finance committee of Obama’s campaign. It will be a short time before Obama's hard-core political opponents put him in the same bed as the cold and heartless corporation that is throwing its workers to the gutter.
A hospitality company, at the very least, is supposed to be hospitable to its own workers. As a public company, Hyatt will have a bigger media footprint and loom as a juicy target for activists everywhere. Undoing the penny-wise, pound-foolish firing plan is a solid business and PR strategy.