A group of some 30 hotel maids have protested in the French capital Paris near the prime minister's residence and the office of the junior minister for gender equality, Marlene Schiappa, calling for an end to job outsourcing and exploitation.
The protest on Wednesday was organised by CGT trade union of Prestige and Economic Hotels (CGT-HPE), just before the junior minister met hotel cleaning agency representatives.
The protesters were joined by CGT-HPE founder Claude Lévy and MPs Eric Coquerel and François Ruffin of the left-wing France Unbowed party.
The two MPs said they were there to defend the 168 maids who work at the National Assembly. The maids are employed by four sub-contractors.
Maids who are subcontracted are particularly vulnerable, said the MPs, because they were paid poorly, had staggered hours and had to work when no one was around, making them virtually invisible to those who depended on their work. They said that outsourcing made it easier for the cleaning staff to be taken advantage of.
"It's shocking that the core business of the hotel industry, which is accommodation, that cleaning the rooms is outsourced," said union founder Lévy.
“In the hotel business, women are shamefully exploited… with very, very painful working conditions," said Lévy, who added that they needed to be directly employed by the hotels. The union has called for the end to subcontracting maids on a number of occasions.
After the meeting with the subcontractors, cleaning agencies, and their unions, Sciappa said that she was creating a group called the Higher Council for Professional Equality (CSEP) which would be launching in September.
They would "formulate concrete proposals to improve the working conditions of maids and cleaners," she said.
The minister added that she had also met other protesters who came to the ministry to speak to her.
The group meeting was requested by another union, a branch of Force Ouvrière called Federation of Equipment, Environment, Transport and Services (FEETS-FO), which asked the minister for "regulatory measures to improve the situation of employees in the sector".
According to a statement on its website, FEETS-FO called on the minister to deal with the job instability that some 400,000 women who work in the hotel cleaning sector suffer from regularly.
Labour issues in the hospitality industry have been marked in recent months by a court case brought by employees of Hotel Balzac and Hotel Vigny, two five-star hotels who claimed the owner was not paying their social contributions. They accuse the Saudi holding company owners of not paying some 2.5 million euros in social contributions.