Restaurant workers nationwide experience high levels of abuse and harassment from owners, managers and chefs and often feel they have nowhere to turn for help, a researcher has told an Oireachtas committee.
NUI Galway business and economics lecturer Deirdre Curran said her ongoing survey of waiters and other restaurant staff nationwide had found widespread ill treatment including “very prevalent” reports of sexual harassment.
“I have been researching for three decades now and I have never before done research that has kept me awake at night. These people are crying out for a voice and crying out for protection,” Dr Curran told the Oireachtas Employment Affairs Committee.
She said, based on her existing analysis of 257 completed surveys, 76pc reported verbal abuse, 64pc psychological abuse, and 15pc physical abuse.
When asked who was responsible for abusing them, she said respondents told her: “Overwhelmingly someone in a position of power - chef, owner, manager.”
When asked to whom they had reported the abuse, she said the “overwhelming answer” was “nobody.” Of those who said they had made a report, just 15pc said it produced any management action.
Dr Curran said 55pc had reported witnessing or experiencing harassment, most commonly “sexual, based on age or race”. She said 63pc witnessed or experienced bullying, and 48pc said they had “no voice in the workplace”.
The academic spoke near the end of a committee meeting focused on whether restaurant workers have tips withheld by owners or managers. She said 23pc reported that their tips were “kept in whole or in part by management”, while 47pc of others said tips were distributed using a management method deemed unclear or unfair.