Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Labouring in the hospitality industry of Cyprus

Gregory Ioannou
Sociology Department,
University of Warwick

Aims, intellectual context and rationale of the research

The topic of my research concerns the labour relations in the hospitality industry of Cyprus. The primary aim of the thesis is to document the conditions of work and employment of a particular section of the working class, strategically positioned in the service economy of Cyprus. More broadly the thesis aims to provide a discussion of the labour relations in Cyprus and to contribute to the debates around the dynamics of labour flexibility in private service sector work.
The thesis is expected to provide some insights on the character of work in the hospitality industry, on sectoral labour relations patterns, on the institutional context and the political strategies of trade union activity and finally on the interplay of gender and ethnicity in the hospitality industry. These insights can be utilised in the debates concerning the contemporary labour process and the transformations that allegedly have taken place in the last decades. The study of a particular labour intensive industry of the service sector is bound to be a source of useful information concerning the notion of the flexibilisation of contemporary labour. The examination of work organisation and employment practices in a specific industry and a traditionally flexible one at that, is expected to subject the theories of flexibility to an empirical test. At the micro level the research will account for the subjective experience of flexible work while at the macro level it will discuss its impacts on the class structure. Thus issues of skill and training, the division of labour and the employment contractual arrangements will be examined in order to assess the meaning of flexibility in labour utilisation and its relation to insecure employment and intensified work. Finally the research should identify possible forms of resistance to flexibilisation and potential alternative practices.
The hospitality industry is ultimately both global and local. As an industry inextricably intertwined with global tourism, it is subject to the volatility of broader geopolitical developments. As a locally delivered service, it is subject to the norms of the society that it is found in as well as to the natural and climate conditions of its surrounding environment. The hotel, as the basic establishment and built environment of hospitality service delivery will attract the main focus of the research. As a place of both leisure and work, the hotel is more than merely a workplace. The hotel is simultaneously a public and a private space, and despite the division into front and back stage areas, spatial boundaries are to a certain degree blurred. The co-presence of the customers and their interactions with the hotel staff is actually part of hospitality work and thus a significant parameter of the analysis.
It is vital that the results of the research are contextualised in their historical settings. This will involve a participation in the debates concerning the developmental paths of Cyprus, concerning both the past and the future, through the analysis of the historical role of the hospitality industry in the broader society of Cyprus. Furthermore the results of the research will be to some extent generalisable, as they can serve as a reference point for other research that focuses on international tourism or more specifically on the global hospitality industry.

Research questions

General research questions
- Where and how is the hospitality industry situated in the broader society of Cyprus?
- What is the structure of the industry's labour force?
- What are the predominant employment relations?
Particular themes to be explored
- How is work in the hospitality industry managed?
- To what extent is work in the hospitality industry gendered?
- What is the role of ethnicity? Comparing the situations of Cypriot and foreign workers.
Analysis and policy implications
- What is the role of the trade unions in hospitality sector labour relations? To what extent are the trade unions able to overcome labour force segmentation and employment insecurity?

Theoretical framework

According to the core and periphery thesis, the restructuring of global capitalism since the mid 1970s has brought the post Fordist regime of flexible accumulation which operates via the segmentation of the labour market into two distinct parts1. (Piore and Sabel, 1984; Harvey, 1989; Standing, 1999; Burchell, Lapido and Wilkinson, 2002) Those belonging to the core segment enjoy stable, permanent and highly rewarding employment, while those belonging to the periphery are pushed into insecure and low paid employment, on a part-time, casual or temporary basis. Whereas the core segment is characterised by functional flexibility and consists of a multi-skilled labour force, the peripheral segment is characterised by numerical flexibility and consists of a casualised and less trained labour force. However the core and periphery thesis has been criticised for over-simplifying and glossing over the complexities of contemporary employment. Critics have claimed that the labour market segmentation is not a new phenomenon, that the so called periphery is heterogeneous and that there are variations in the trends of insecure employment. (Pollert, 1988; Gallie et al, 1998) More generally critics have called for sector specific research in order to examine the particularities of non-standard forms of employment, viewing the difference between “core” and “periphery” as one of degree, not of substance.
Although most of the literature on labour flexibility focuses on the secondary sector, it is in the now dominant tertiary sector that non-standard jobs seem to be concentrated. (Rees and Fielder, 1992) Thus, before proceeding to analyse the dynamics of labour flexibility, it is important to understand more specifically the concept of service sector work. Service sector work, and in particular hospitality work, is characterised by the presence of the customer in the workplace itself. This brings about a simultaneity of production and consumption as all services provided are delivered at the time and place at which they are produced. The quality of the social interaction between the front-line worker and the customer, is part of the product that is sold. (Urry, 1990) Hence, the cuctomer comes to influence the way in which the “triadic” work relation is constructed. (Lucas, 2004) According to the empowerment thesis propagated in managerial literature, service sector work is satisfying and empowering since the front line workers are allowed a significant degree of autonomy in their interactions with customers. According to the rationalisation thesis, (Ritzer, 1996, 2004) service sector work is bureaucratically determined, consisting of overtly scripted and routinised interactions, rehearsed time and time again in an almost Taylorist model. Ambitious attempts to reconcile both aspects include the concept of the customer-oriented bureaucracy (Korczynski, 2002) according to which managers of service sector work promote both cost minimisation and good customer relations policies in their attempt to maintain the “enchanting illusion of customer sovereignty”. It is a matter of investigation to determine whether the customer is perceived as a second boss, or as a source of satisfaction for service sector workers.
The hospitality industry has traditionally been a low-paying and labour intensive industry. Tipping, a socially embedded historical legacy of hospitality, expresses and supports a split in managerial authority, promoting an instrumental relationship between the worker and the customer. (Korczynski, 2002) The hospitality industry however, is a diverse sector consisting of both front line and back stage work. Thus whereas some workers are likely to interact with customers on a continuous basis, some others might not interact with them at all. The distinction between front line and back stage work may be related to ethnicity, and the distinction between local and foreign labour. It is in other words possible that there are significant differences in the character of work within the industry that militate against generalisations. The majority of hospitality sector workers are females, and there are allegedly aspects of hospitality sector work especially prone to feminisation and sexualisation. (Lucas, 2004) It is a matter of investigation to determine the extent and the ways in which hospitality sector work is gendered, by examining the interplay of emotion and sexuality and their role in the structuring of both the work and the employment relationship.(Adkins, 1995; Taylor and Tyler, 2000)
The generalised insecurity thesis focuses on the social impacts of labour flexibility, and its detrimental effects on the self. Richard Sennet (1998) for example claims that the short termist character of contemporary employment brings illegibility and loss of coherent biographical narrative, superficiality of involvements and erosion of trust, leading in the corrosion of character. This perspective illuminates the subjective aspects of work and employment and its impacts in the lives of people. The hospitality industry has been traditionally the site of atypical and flexible labour relations. (Timo, 2001) It has also been traditionally a difficult terrain for trade union organisation. (Lucas, 1996; Wills 2005) As a sector with high labour turnover, it lacks the relative stability, deemed necessary for trade union activity to develop. (Wood, 1992) It is a matter of empirical investigation to examine how trade unionism works in the hospitality industry, analysing its efforts of recruitment and its political strategies in collective bargaining negotiations. Finally this can be related to the low-waged people's strategies of survival through a broader analysis of the social context of their work, examining family and class history.

Spacio – temporal framework: Cyprus and historical context

Godfrey Baldacchino in his 1993 phd thesis, “Labouring in the Lilliput: labour relations and images of smallness in developing microstates”, put forward the concept of the microstate labour syndrome, while examining the labour dynamics in two small states, Malta and Barbados. Besides the advantages of a more manageable research project in logistic, temporal and financial terms, he claimed that the microstate millieu constitutes a specificity that requires an analysis sensitive to the smallness effect. He claimed that small state societies are characterised by totality, monopoly and intimacy, attributes that differentiate them from the western european “norm”. Since then however, the expansion of and increased interaction with the global migration movements, may have changed the situation. Sotiris Kattos in his 1999 phd thesis, “State, capital and labour in Cyprus”, for example has claimed that the influx of foreign labour has generally weakened the Cypriot labour movement by exerting a downward pressure on wages.
Before proceeding to examine the origins of the hospitality industry in Cyprus it is important to refer to the late colonial period, as this was the time when the first wave of the proletarianisation process was completed, as the towns of Cyprus were converted into commercial centres.(Attalides, 1981) Proletarianisation was imposed in the interwar period through the expropriation of the peasantry in the hands of the money lenders. The material condition and the experience of proletarianisation as a historical process caused the class restructuring which created the working class of the towns (Katsiaounis, 1996, 2000) and the “mass worker” of the mines (Panayiotou, 1999). The basic characteristic and consequence of this process was the declining importance of farm land as an infrastructure for the family, and its replacement by wage (Loizos, 1975). The establishment of the capitalist relation was completed in the 1940s through the expansion of military and public works, which ultimately imposed the law of value in the Cypriot countryside. Capitalist development however, was neither a consensual nor a smooth process. The local resistances to capital were expressed through the cooperative and trade union movements, which were constituted simultaneously both as a defence and as a proposal of the farmers and the workers with respect to and against the form of development. These same military and public works, that signalled the final predominance of the waged form of labour, constituted simultaneously an aspect of the Keynesian compromise, which included/accepted the working class into the state through the political regulation of the market. The late colonial period, was also the time of the most important victory of the labour movement, namely the Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) considered by capital as the major cause of the erosion of the competitiveness of the Cypriot economy (Kattos, 1999). It was also the time when tripartism and the rudimentary form of the social security system was instituted. (Slocum, 1974; Sparsis, 1998)
The origins of the hospitality industry in Cyprus are to be found in the internal/domestic tourism of the 1940s and 1950s in the movement of the bourgoisie from the towns to the villages. The relatively rich townspeople rented the countryside houses for the summer while the owners of the houses spend the summer months camping in the fields, under the trees. Kakopetria, Kalopanayiotis and Pera Pedhi emerged in this way as minor hill resorts. Mountainous resorts such as Platres, Prodromos and Pedhoulas attracted visitors from the Middle East, while seaside resorts such as Kyrenia catered principally for European visitors. By 1961, the island had 110 hotels, with 4306 beds catering for 38 396 tourist arrivals. (Christodoulou, 1992: 140). The independence government paid special attention to tourism, offering low interest, long term loans for new hotels or the expansion of existing ones, long-term leases of state land in coastal areas and duty free import of hotel furniture and equipment as well as tax allowances for hotel building investments. (Christodoulou, 1992: 141)
Mass international tourism is essentially a post independence/post colonial phenomenon in Cyprus. Although the development of this sector begun in the late 1960s, the most rapid expansion came after the war of 1974. The expansion of the tourist industry was embarked upon as a national development strategy expected to bring in foreign currency and create jobs. The rapidity of development brought with it huge environmental costs, as construction of hotels has been haphazard and largely unplanned. Private investors were given generous incentives by the state, as the tourist industry has been viewed as the means and the motor of broader economic development. It was in the 1970s and 1980s that the second wave of proletarianisation occured firstly caused by the war of 1974 and secondly by the demise of agriculture and the desertion of the countryside in search of work in the expanding service sector. (Christodoulou, 1992)
By the 1990s, all the coastal towns of Cyprus were transformed by the influx of mass package tourism in search of sun, sea and sex. Ayia Napa became a youth attraction while Paphos became a site of family tourism. High class tourism, the favourite type for the authorities also made its presence felt in more secluded areas nearby. Despite the moratorium placed regarding the construction of further hotels and hotel appartments, haphazard development continued unabated. Although the tourism industry was shaken by the Gulf war of 1991 and September 11 in 2001, it managed to recover fairly quickly and continued to expand until this day.
Whereas in the 1980s workers for the hospitality industry were drawn from the locality, the increasing integration of Cyprus in the networks of global migration, made foreign workers an alternative pool of recruits. Immigrant workers with papers rose from 26 000 in 2000 to 47 000 in 2004. More specifically for those employed in hotels and restaurants, the number doubled from 2000 to 2004. (Labour statistics, 2004) This does not include those without papers, estimated at 30 000 to 40 000, who are expected to have increased even more, as a result of Cyprus' entry in the EU in 2004. That there is a significant degree of ethnic discrimination in the Cypriot labour market, has already been documented. (Trimikliniotis and Pantelides, 2003). It is matter of empirical investigation to assess the consequences of this for the labour relations of the hospitality industry and in Cypriot society more generally.


The research project will take the form of four comparative case studies and will consist primarily of qualitative methods of data collection such as interviewing and participant observation. I will need to actually spend a significant amount of time in the workplaces under investigation and interact with my informants in both formal and informal ways. The primary method for the selection of my informants will be the snowballing sampling technique, although taking care not to be confined to a restricted segment of the labour force. Convenience and self selection methods will also be used.
I will examine four tourist establishments, two catering for mass tourism, and two for elite tourism, two unionised workplaces and two non unionised. The four establishments will vary in size but small establishments will be excluded as they are bound to be family businesses working under different logic than the “norm” of the industry. I expect that 12-15 semi structured interviews is a sufficient number from each unit. Some interviews may be unrecorded, since important information is usually gathered when the tape-recorder is switched off. I will begin by collecting statistics and background information from press reviews and expert interviews, (with state officials, employers' representatives and trade unionists) so that the context of the research can be established. Then I would visit the manegement of each workplace, introduce myself as a research student and ask for their permission to have a series of interviews with them and their staff. In the unionised places the trade unionists might act as contacts, introducing me to unionised workers.
In the interviews with managers, the key questions will revolve around human resource management and the extent of flexibility in the workplace and more broadly in the industry. The discussion with managers is expected to yield infomation regarding the methods of recruitment and retention of staff, the degree of workforce task discretion deemed optimal for the establishment and the patterns of workforce reward [formal as well as informal (Mars, 1982)] and discipline. From the management I expect to collect data on management structure, employment, labour turnover, forms of contract, wages and payment policies etc.
In the interviews with trade unionists, the key questions will revolve around policies of organisation and strategies of collective bargaining negotiations. The discussion with them is expected to yield information regarding the patterns of their activity, the difficulties that they encounter and their projections about current and future workplace struggles. From the trade unionists I expect to collect data on membership structure, recruitment policy, problems encountered by workers and demands of previous and current struggles.
In the interviews with the workers, Cypriots and immigrants, the key questions will revolve around questions of working history, current work duties, relationships among collegues and superiors, unionisation and collective action and their interaction with the customers. The discussion with them is expected to yield information about the subjective aspects of their work, their perceptions and expectations from their current jobs contextualising it in their broader life experience, their family and social life in and out of the workplace. Hence the working conditions in the industry will be examined from a historical perspective in search of elements of continuity and change.
From the workers I expect to collect data on the everyday life in the industry, on workplace networks, on class and family history.
The information that I will have gathered from managers, trade unionists and workers, in the form of summary interview transcripts and observational fieldnotes will be then subjected to rigorous analysis. I will select representative quatations and I will compare and contrast them with the expectations of the various theoretical models, such as the core and periphery and the generalised insecurity theses, the empowerment and rationalisation theses, the gendered work and ethnicised labour market theses. Six dimensions seem to emerge up to now, requiring separate analysis.

Ethical considerations

The basic ethical consideration in my research project is the need for confidentiality with respect to the personal data that I will have collected. It is important to maintain the anonymity both of my informants and of the establishments that I will examine. Hence I intend to use pseudonyms both with respect to my informants and with respect to their workplaces. Since a significant part of the data will be collected by means of informal interactions, it is vital that I inform my respondents in advance that I am conducting research on the hospitality industry and that I intend to use the information for the purposes of a publication. Having set the basic ethical parameters however, does not mean that all is done with. I may face unexpected incidences where I am witness to illegal activities, sexual harassment or minor thefts. As a guiding principle in my encounter with such eventualities, I will refrain from intervention unless this amounts to a serious violation of the interests or rights of another fellow human being.


June 2007: expert interviews (trade unionists, employers' representatives, state officials)
July – September 2007: observation and interviews from hotel 1
October – November 2007: observation and interviews from hotel 2
December 2007 – February 2008: observation and interviews from hotel 3
March - April 2008: observation and interviews from hotel 4
May – June 2008: data analysis and choice of quotations
July – August 2008: chapter 1
September – October 2008: chapter 2
November – December 2008: chapter 3
January – March 2009: chapter 4
April – June 2009: chapter 5
July – September 2009: chapter 6
October – November 2009: chapter 7
December 2009 – January 2010: chapter 8


Chapter 1: Context and methods
The introductory chapter will set the theoretical and historical context through a general literature review regarding both the thematic focus of the research and its spacio-temporal framework. The main methodological considerations and the conceptual framework utilised by the research will be explicated here so that the ground of the research unfolds from the beginning.

Chapter 2: The case studies
The second chapter will offer a descriptive account of the empirical research as it will be conducted in the period June 2007 – June 2008. A detailed narrative of all four case studies is expected to illuminate the main questions guiding the data collection process as well as the actual recording and selecting of the relevant information.

Chapter 3: The character of work
The first analytic chapter concerns the management of the workplaces and the degree of employee involvement by means of team working and operational decision making at the point of service. The separation of conception from execution (Braverman, 1974) and the varieties of forms of control coined by Edwards (1979) as simple, technical and bureaucratic as well as the notion of the “social worker” (Negri, 1988) will act as theoretical guidelines, informing the collection of empirical data. It maybe the case that collaborative networks are horizontal amongst the labour force, with management confined to a supervisory role, while it might also be the case that vertical structures of authority are firmly established. The size of the establishment will be an independent variable in this case, with functional flexibility and multi-skilling being the dependent variable. Formality and informality of management as well as of recruitment will be another dimension for investigation and analysis.

Chapter 4: The forms and extent of flexibility in the industry
The hospitality industry has traditionally been a sector of non-standard employment relations, relying heavily on a primarily female and part-time labour force. (Wood, 1992) The seasonal character of work in the tourist industry has meant in practice that a section of the staff is laid off in the autumn, and hired back again in the spring. There also seems to be a significant amount of shift and overtime work, employment practices that probably preceded the literature on numerical and temporal flexibility. (Rowley and Richardson, 2000) The varieties of employment relations in the industry will be examined in an attempt to assess the conditions of work in the lives of the workers. (Gabriel, 1988)
The analysis of the character of work and employment in the hospitality industry of Cyprus is expected to put to the test theories of Taylorism whether of actual labour power utilisation (Braverman, 1974) or of contractual relations of employment (Beck, 1986). Concepts such as flexible specialisation (Piore and Sabel, 1984) and Post-fordism (Bonefeld and Holloway, 1991; Vallas, 1999), will guide the collection of empirical data, examining the relationship between service market demand and labour process organisation. In other words, mass tourism and elite tourism will be the independent variables, while working tasks and employment practices will be the dependent variables.

Chapter 5: Gendered work
The role of gender in the hospitality industry will be analysed through an examination of the organisational structure of the establishments as well as through an observation of the modes of interaction between men and women workers, managers and customers. It is expected that the labour force will be segregated and heterosexuality will be the predominant mode of interaction, while the family is expected to constitute the primary form of social organisation. The majority of hospitality sector workers are females. It is a matter of investigation to determine the extent and the ways in which hospitality sector work is gendered, by examining the interplay of emotion and sexuality and their role in the structuring of the work and employment relation. (Adkins, 1995; Taylor and Tyler, 2000)

Chapter 6: Ethnicity in the labour process
The role of the foreign workers in the hospitality industry, discriminatory practices and the relations between Cypriot and non-Cypriot workers will constitute another dimension requiring analysis in the context of the research. The role of ethnicity in the structuring of the employment relationship is expected to be significant, both in terms of wage determination and in terms of the division of labour. More broadly the transformation in the Cypriot class structure in the last decades need to be discussed in relation to the phenomenon of global migration and its intersection with the island of Cyprus and its hospitality industry.

Chapter 7: Labour force structure and institutional context
The hospitality industry of Cyprus, like most industries in Cyprus is governed by the tripartite system of industrial relations. This was enshrined in the Industrial Relations Code of 1977 which stipulates the voluntary abidance of both employers and employees to the collective agreements signed by their representative organisations. (Sparsis, 1998) There is a significant trade union presence in the hospitality industry of Cyprus, an attribute that sets Cyprus apart from the UK experience, and militating for separate analysis, on the lines of the micro-state millieu. Out of the 30 000 employed in hotels and restaurants around 12 000 are unionised, refering to those that paid their contribution at least once in the last two years. (source: interviews with trade unionists)

Chapter 8: Trade unionism – collective action and strategy
There has also been limited albeit significant strike activity during the negotiation of the last collective sectoral agreement, renewed in August 2006. The collective agreement stipulates for the method of payment of allowances and compensations, overtime work, holidays and rest hours, sick leave and health care in the trade union medical schemes, cost of living allowance, and the various benefits accruing from years of service. (Collective aggrement for the hotels and restaurants sector, 2006). Trade unionists complain however that employers in some establishments violate the collective agreement by offering lower wages and less benefits than those stipulated by contractual arrangements. It is important to examine the ways in which the collective agreement relates to actual employment practices and the ways with which managements and trade unions react to its failures. Union policy and strategy will be discussed more broadly at the national level linking it with processes under way at the workplace level.

A discussion of the major results of the thesis.

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Braverman Harry, Labor and monopoly capital: the degradation of work in the 20th Century, Monthly Review Press, 1974
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Christodoulou Demetrios, Inside the Cyprus miracle: the labours of an embattled mini-economy, Minneapolis: University of Minessota, 1992
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Statistical Service of Republic of Cyprus, Labour statistics, 2004
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Wills Jane, The geography of union organising in low-paid service industries in the UK: Lessons from the T&G's campaign to unionise the Dorchester Hotel, London, Antipode, 2005
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1The debate around post Fordism begins with Aglietta (1979) and the French regulation school.