Panic Buttons will be distributed to all hotel staff at New York City's biggest establishments in the wake of a hotel maid's charge that she was sexually assaulted by former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
The unusual benefit was part of a long-term contract that will give hotel housekeepers and other employees significant pay raises, fully paid health coverage, and larger pension contributions.
The panic button is the most visible of the changes in the new contract. The security device would summon help if a member of the hotel staff encounters danger in a guest's room.
The provision in the contract requires that hotels equip certain employees with devices to be carried on their person at work that they can quickly and easily activate to effectively summon prompt assistance to their location.
The devices must be distributed within a year to housekeepers, room-service waiters, and attendants who stock minibars. The type of devices can vary from hotel to hotel for technical reasons, but all will serve the same purpose of summoning help.
After Strauss-Kahn's May 2011 arrest, the Sofitel and the Pierre, another high-end hotel in Manhattan, decided to give panic buttons to maids. Now, housekeepers at all major hotels in the city will be equipped with the device.
It's a very cost-efficient and simple way to keep hotel workers safe, Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman told The New York Times. Lancman is a Queens Democrat who sponsored a bill last year to require hotels to provide such equipment. After what happened last year and what we learned happens all too often in hotels, we're very grateful that the hotels have agreed to essentially adopt the premise of our legislation.
The unions are tightlipped about whether the proposal is directly related to the incident involving Strauss-Kahn. Charges against the French politician were dropped in August after prosecutors decided the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, was not credible.
It's unfortunate but there are instances when guests behave inappropriately, John Turchiano, spokesman for the New York Hotel Trades Counci, told Reuters. This would be a really good way to cut down on that and give our members strong protections.
The new contract terms were presented on Tuesday evening to the 30,000 members of the New York Hotel Trades Council A.F.L.-C.I.O. The seven-year contract was approved by the Hotel Association of New York and is on schedule to be ratified by the union's members Monday.