Hotel workers file complaints against Hyatt

Striking hotel workers walk on their own red carpet in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel which is hosting events for the 35th Toronto International Film Festival September 12, 2010. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese (CANADA - Tags: EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS SOCIETY)

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Union-represented housekeepers filed injury complaints against Hyatt Hotels Corp H.N properties in eight U.S. cities on Tuesday, but the company said the filing was a union ploy to gain leverage and members.

The 12 filings with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration asked for an investigation into what the union, Unite Here, said were high rates of injuries among overworked housekeepers at Hyatt properties.

“Unite Here is making false charges about our work environment in hotels where we are currently trying to negotiate new union contracts,” Robb Webb, Hyatt’s chief human resources officer, said in a statement.

A study last year in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine cited by the union as showing high rates of injuries to female housekeepers, particularly at Hyatt, was branded by Webb as “creating misinformation about the work experience at Hyatt hotels.”

Francine Jones, a housekeeper at Hyatt Regency Chicago for 19 years, said in a statement provided by the union that her work was getting harder every year and was taking a toll.

“I live with chronic pain in my back and knees from all the heavy lifting and bending I do to change beds, scrub floors and toilets, and push heavy furniture around to vacuum. I wake up at night because of the pain, and I need two hands to even just hold a coffee pot,” she said.

The union recommended a broad array of changes including: reduce what the union says are the current 30 rooms a day each housekeeper must clean, provide fitted instead of flat sheets, help with lifting heavy luxury mattresses, and giving workers long-handled mops to alleviate back-breaking work done on their hands and knees.

The 12 Hyatt properties with 3,500 employees cited in the complaints are in eight cities: San Antonio, Texas; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Clara, California; Los Angeles; Long Beach, California; Honolulu; and Indianapolis.