The whole world understands why workers must get wage increases and other remunerations; everything’s getting expensive after all. Many would be happy to know that Austria has just implemented a minimum wage law enforceable starting January 1, 2015 for its foreign workers employed in the skiing industry.
This means foreign employees will now get a minimum wage of around 1,000 euros a month. This is on top of the payment-in-kind that employees usually get as part of their employment package – paid flights, insurance, meals and accommodation, ski pass, equipment rental, overtime shift payments and pocket money. This is the “Anti Wage and Social Dumping Act “ that’s primarily aimed at “maintaining wage levels as migrant workers arrived from new member states of the European Union.”
Good intentions, however, often run counter to other interests; in this case that of the operators of ski resorts. According to the article Ski Chalet Holidays in Austria Threatened by New Wage Rules written by Peter Hardy for Telegraph Travel – Skiing News:
“A number of operators including Inghams, Ski Esprit, Ski Total and VIP run their own hotels as well as chalets at reasonable prices in Austria with mainly British staff. They maintain this would not be possible if they were forced to pay Austrian minimum wages.
If they do not abide by the new rules, tour operators could face fines of up to 10,000 euros per employee for a first offence or up to 20,000 euros where three or more staff are involved – on top of paying any backlog in wages and social security payments.”
A very popular skiing destination, second only to France and with snow falling, skiers and holidaymakers are expected to start rushing to Switzerland in less than a fortnight. Now that the skiing season is at hand, many ski and chalet holiday operators are still in doubt if they can sustain their operation with the huge additional cost instigated by the new law. This is causing the chalet holiday to be thrown into jeopardy.
With this law, Henry Duce said, “Ski chalet holidays will get more expensive – and we’ll have to get used to it.” In this article is posted in Telegraph Travel – Skiing News, Duce recalls how he used to work as a teen in Méribel as a plongeur or dishwasher. He used to get about £50 a week or about £100 in today’s money. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for a kid like him plus he got lots of freebies – lodging, meals and ski and lift passes – to complete the most memorable days of his youth.
“This system of employing temporary British staff to work in the Alps has happily carried on ever since. Chalet employees have a life-enriching experience, chalet operators are able to keep their costs down and offer good value holidays. It’s been a win-win.
Until recently that is. Switzerland and Austria are altering their employment laws to bind UK operators to pay their countries’ respective minimum wages, rather than the much lower British one.”
This is causing some dramatic impact on the ski industry of Switzerland.
“… one of the UK’s biggest operators, Inghams, has closed all but one chalet in Switzerland, while its sister companies, Ski Total and Esprit Ski, have left altogether. Luxury outfit Scott Dunn has closed its two Swiss properties and Skiworld has pulled out of Verbier, with just one chalet in both Zermatt and Nendaz.
Crystal Ski, another ski operator giant, pulled its chalets from Switzerland last season, citing the law change as “one of the factors”.”
One big problem that those ski industries still in operation must contend with is the fact that most have already contracted chalets and sold thousands of holidays without bringing into the computation the additional cost of the foreign labor that most can’t operate without. Inghams’ new brochures don’t also include the increased costs that the new law on minimum wage would bring about.
Duce shared his worries if the ruling goes ahead… That’s now water under the bridge because it is now being implemented. This means if you are traveling to Switzerland to enjoy its snowy, powdery slopes, it will be best to call your operators now (if they haven’t contacted you yet to announce changes in the chalet rates) to find out how the law is affecting the financial aspect of your holiday. If money is not a problem, then this news isn’t for you. If you are traveling on a budget, you wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared; call and validate while there is time.
Of course, there are hotels and self-catering accommodation available as alternatives. These too, however, may run out fast with the rates of chalets suddenly increasing. Chalet holidays are still better options giving you a great value for your money, just come prepared with the increased cost. “The increased cost is just something we’re going to have to get used to.”