A worker at one of Auckland's leading hotels says he is leaving his job because it wasn't worth the risk over Covid-19.

It comes as Gerard Hehir, of the Unite union, which represents many of New Zealand's hotel workers, said although it had been a "shambles" at many hotels, the situation had now improved.

Most, if not all, hotels now had personal protective equipment (PPE) and because residents had to stay in their rooms and were only allowed out for a short periods of exercise, the risk to staff was low, Hehir said.

The worker - who did not want to give his name - agreed staff were provided with PPE, including masks and gloves, and adequate information on the risks.


Yet he was living with a person deemed vulnerable to serious illness from Covid-19.

"That was the main factor [in leaving]," he said.

However, he also believed there had been failings at his hotel, which was housing hundreds of guests arriving from overseas for self isolation, as well as paying domestic guests.

Guests in isolation and those paying were kept apart.

However, until about one week ago, the same staff members would greet and interact with both groups, the worker said.

Staff had also initially been told not to wear masks and gloves around paying guests for fear of scaring them.

"I didn't follow it at all, I kept my mask and gloves on," the man said.

One senior figure at the hotel, however, did not wear PPE and continued to move freely between guests and staff - posing a risk to all, the worker said.


The worker said he had seen at least 10 guests leave isolation early from the hotel.

Unlike supermarket workers who were given a temporary 10 per cent pay bonus in recognition of their hard work and the risks related to offering essential services related to Covid-19, hotel workers had not been offered anything, the man said.

"And most people at the hotel are paid close to minimum wage," he said.

And because the tourism industry is struggling, the hotel has announced it would be undertaking a wave of redundancies.

Security outside the Novotel at Ellerslie that is used to quarantine people entering New Zealand from overseas. Photo / Dean Purcell
Security outside the Novotel at Ellerslie that is used to quarantine people entering New Zealand from overseas. Photo / Dean Purcell

This meant most workers were simply trying to hang onto their jobs rather than seek a bonus for the risks of dealing with isolating guests, he said.

Unite's Hehir, meanwhile, said it had been a tough time for hotel staff.

Many had lost their jobs because of the economic downturn, and those still working had to contend with ever-changing guidelines for handling guests in isolation.

Telling quarantine and isolation residents what to do had been a particular shock for hotel staff.

"They're not health workers, these are hotel workers, they're not used to telling people what they can't do. It's a very different call to say 'no, you can only stay in your room' and 'you shouldn't be doing that'.

Quarantine hotels, in particular, were operating similar to a prison.

"That's actually the level of control that's required to do it properly," Hehir said.

"In the prison, you need to know where the prisoner is, are they secure.

"Hotels are not set up like that, staff are not trained to do that and so it's a huge learning curve there.

"[Hotels aren't] designed to prevent people from moving from one area to another."

Most of Unite's members worked with Accor-owned hotels including Novotel.

One Kiwi in quarantine at the Novotel appreciated the work of staff who all appeared to be doing a good job.

"They have good support here from the navy, nurses, health department and aviation security," the man said.

"All of them wear masks, work behind perspex similar to a bank. Everyone here that I see is respecting the social distancing. There are also marked lines spaced out to help enforce it."

He said they were allowed to order food or receive couriers, but these were checked by hotel staff before being given to them.

They were also allowed to go outside for as long as they wanted.

Meanwhile, Hehir said he was aware of one hotel that had axed its ministry contract to quarantine overseas guests.

It was a financial risk the hotel was prepared to bear in favour of returning its focus to domestic tourism.

"It's tough. Your occupancy falls from 87 per cent to 15 per cent. The MoH are the only game in town at the moment," Hehir said.