New York City hotels to give panic buttons to maids

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 08, 2012 11:38 AM
New York City hotels to give panic buttons to maids

By Aman Ali

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hotels in New York City agreed to give housekeepers personal panic buttons in the wake of a hotel maid's charge she was sexually assaulted by former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The panic buttons were among several items included in a contract proposal presented on Tuesday to the city's hotel union that was expected to win approval early next week.

The contract offer also includes a 29 percent salary increase and health insurance for workers.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested last year for allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid cleaning his suite at the luxury Sofitel

but the charges were later dropped.

After Strauss-Kahn's May 2011 arrest, the Sofitel and the Pierre, another high-end hotel in midtown Manhattan, both decided to give panic buttons to maids. Now housekeepers at all of the biggest hotels in the city will be equipped with the devices.

"It's unfortunate but there are instances when guests behave inappropriately," said John Turchiano, spokesperson for the New York Hotel Trades Council, the union representing over 30,000 hotel workers in the area.

"This would be a really good way to cut down on that and give our members strong protections," said Turchiano.

Employers would be required to give panic buttons to any hotel worker entering an occupied guest room, according to the contract proposal.

The Hotel Association of New York approved the devices last week.

"They can quickly and easily activate these devices to effectively summon prompt assistance to their locations," said association spokeswoman Lisa Linden.

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who introduced a bill in the state legislature last year calling for panic buttons, applauded their inclusion in the proposed contract.

"It's an important but simple step to protect housekeepers from assault," Lancman told Reuters.

(Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Paul Thomasch)