Some Happy Holiday Scenes Have an Unhappy Background
The ideal holiday, for many people, is a week or a fortnight at a holiday camp. Comfortable chalets; a lavish restaurant; luxury swimming-pool; cinema and ballroom; children's playground; there is probably everything they need for their comfort and their pleasure. But come and take a look behind the scenes - it might give you a bit of a shock. As in posh hotels, where a luxury fagade for guests may conceal pokiness and squalor in staff quarters, so in some holiday camps the pleasant conditions for campers bear little relation to those of the staff. Many of those who staff the holiday camps are young people - some staying on for an extra year at school, some taking vacation jobs from universities or colleges. FOF them holiday jobs are a necessity of life, to subsidize their inadequate grants, to buy clothes or a few amusements, to help out parents who are struggling to make ends meet while the children are still not earning. At first sight a job at a holiday camp for the five weeks of the peak holiday period sounds ideal. Wages offered may be something like £ 22-25 for the period, plus free board and lodgings. On your days off, of course, you're having a free holiday - marvellous!
But watch which camp you go to, because if you are unlucky enough to pick one of the "bad ones" you'll wish you had gone labouring or fruit-picking instead. Some students can tell you hair-raising stories of their experiences as staff
in some holiday camps. The wages sound less wonderful when worked out on an hourly basis. For cafe assistants, working hours in one camp were either 7 a. m. until 4.30 p. m., or 4 p. m. to 1 a. m. six days a week (respectively 54 and 48 working hours). Which means a maximum of 2s an hour (no extra money for working the late shift; work on a Bank Holiday or on a scheduled day off was paid at ordinary rate).
But you must take into account the free meals and lodging, surely?
Yes, indeed. And neither food nor chalets, say some of the students, bear any relation to what the campers see in their own quarters.
In their own words: "damp chalets infested with beetles ... rats sometimes seen ... sinks overflowing ... rain coming in through the roof. "Staff canteen roof also leaked ... food sometimes dirty." One woman was told that if she complained about the food she could get off the camp.
Breakfast, dinner and tea were supplied, but no food after 6.30 p. m. Obviously those on the late shift, finishing at 1 a. m., needed something more; if so, they had to pay for it - and as no-food was allowed in the chalets, they couldn't buy supplies off the camp, but had to buy the camp food. Prices for this were often inflated (e. g., a packet of biscuits supposed to retail at 3d sold for 5d) - so here the campers were exploited as well as the staff.
What goes on in the kitchens of some camps is also a revelation. Again I quote a student: "Behind the scenes the place was filthy. The drains were in a disgusting state, and it was difficult to get even a small bottle of disinfectant. Washing facilities were terribly inadequate, particularly in one large coffee bar, where women had to wash hundreds of dishes in two small sinks. Hot water was cut off at 1.30 a. m., so the last lot of dirty dishes had to be washed in cold. In the five weeks that I was there, there was no inspection of the kitchens."
Another point made by some students concerns intimidation of the staff. At one particular camp a small bonus is paid to those who complete their five-week contract. However, it was not uncommon for staff to be discharged towards the end of the season on one pretext or another, so that no bonus was payable. Often the young workers had to suffer the indignity of being escorted off the camp by security guards. An allegation is made that in at least one case two lads were knocked about because they protested against being shot off the camp in this way. It seems quite common in a number of camps, if any of the staff fall ill, for them to be allowed 24 hours sick leave - and then it's either back to work or get out. The exploitation of young workers in holiday jobs is not, of course, confined to a few holiday camps. Parents, students themselves, and trade-unions should be concerned about it.
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