After months of squabbling over costs, more than 130 Big Apple hotels have struck a deal with unions to impose strict sanitary standards to keep workers and guests safe from the coronavirus.
Under the deal, hotel rooms will be disinfected daily — regardless of whether a guest has checked out or not, and despite some hotel companies arguing for more limited interaction between guests and employees.
Room cleanings will be deeper and take longer than before, resulting in each housecleaner turning over 25 percent fewer rooms, although hoteliers avoided demands for shampooing the carpets every day. The union also backed down on a request that no one, including cleaning staff, be allowed to enter a room for 48 hours after a guest has checked out.
Hotels that don’t already have them will be required to purchase new vacuum cleaners equipped with air filters, and they will need to hire staff dedicated to cleaning elevator buttons, door knobs and countertops in their public areas.
“This agreement creates a sanitization team that will clean the lobbies and hallways at least hourly and it’s a different team from the housekeepers,” explained Rich Maroko, chief council of the trades council.
Union leaders argue that the deal is a winning strategy for luring tourists and business travelers back to the Big Apple. But the agreement, which applies to the Four Seasons, Sheraton New York and Hilton New York, will also cost the industry in the form of an expanded payroll at a time when business is struggling.
“We are all suffering right now. No one is winning,” Rudy Tauscher, the general manager of the Four Seasons told The Post. The union agreement “has good points, but some are overreaching and create a heavy burden,” he said.
Hotel occupancy levels are currently at 45 percent, according to data provider STR, and the vast majority of NYC hotels are still closed. The Omni Berkshire Place hotel at East 52nd Street recently announced that it won’t reopen its doors at all. Others, including the Times Square Edition hotel, could follow suit, according to reports.
The Coronavirus Safety Protocol Agreement, which was inked on Thursday, also calls for hotel guests to wear masks in all public areas of hotels. And it gives hotel staff an extra 20 paid days off on top of the existing 45 days they are entitled to under the agreement should they become ill with the coronavirus.
The agreement, which ends in August, expands on a previous deal that had ended on June 15 and had included 150 properties. Just 50 of those properties are open right now.
Union officials are also pushing for legislators to require all hotels in the city to adhere to these higher standards.
“The only way to attract tourists back to our city is by thoughtfully rebuilding the hotel industry so that tourists and workers all feel safe in our hotels,” argued Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel Trades Council in a statement to The Post.
Certainly, city coffers could use the boost. The hotel industry’s revenue woes are expected to lead to a reduction of $1.3 billion to NY state and city budgets this year, according to an analysis conducted by Oxford Economics for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
The Hotel Association of New York City, which negotiates labor contracts on behalf of the industry, did not respond for comment.