To all Staff Members,
Re: Closure of XXXXXXX XXX.

This is to advise all Staff Members that we have closed the Hotel from 31st March 2020.
This decision is as a result of the economic situation of our industry, lack of guests and the Coronavirus Epidemic.
As a result, all members of staff are advised to proceed on unpaid leave while we assess the situation.
We shall revisit our decision from time to time and advise you accordingly.
We wish you safety and health at this difficult time in our country.

Was the first message I received upon waking up this morning. A lot of thoughts crossed my mind but primarily, my survival instincts immediately took over. I paused to reflect on the magnitude of this decision and how it would affect my family and me as well as my work mates, some of whom I have come to know intimately after working with them for several years.

Top most on my mind was the issue of survival. How long will this last? What will we survive on in the meantime? If the situation persists for longer than a month, how will we afford to pay our bills, loans et al?

As the day wore on, I started feeling a sense of relief. Brought on by knowing that first and foremost this is a global pandemic and there are people who are worse off than me. At least I have a roof over my shoulder, food to last for about a month and utilities paid off for the month. I have health insurance and so far my family is healthy and whole. Secondly, I am a person of sound mind with no physical disabilities therefore very capable of doing anything that I set my mind to for survival.

The last time I was in survival mode was more than a decade ago, just when I was fresh from campus with a lot of dreams and a single mother of one. Come to think of it, this was the time when I felt more alive than ever. All the decisions I made determined whether we would have food for that day or not. It’s true that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

For many years I have been living a “sheltered existence”. Living from paycheck to paycheck and dreading the day that my job may end for any reason. The trends in the hospitality sector have never been consistent/ stable and with lack of a singular regulatory body (both in terms of salary scales as well as rights of employees), one can never fully settle down to the idea that your terms of employment are “permanent”. This is a mirage even if you have a letter stating so.

Many who have worked in the hospitality industry have retired to a life of poverty because of the fact that the government does not have clear guidelines in as far as this sector goes. The employer is at liberty to choose whether to pay an employee a sum for their years of service or not to pay them upon retirement/termination of their service. This may be the norm in all privately owned businesses, but I can only authoritatively speak for my particular industry.

Salary scales are not regulated either, with some employees earning a basic salary of Kshs. 10,000 and some up to over Kshs. 1,000,000 (depending on the job title as well as the years of experience for some job groups). This disparity in pay is very discouraging but totally normal in the hospitality industry. In actuality, a lot of 5 star properties have most of their “lower cadre employees” on 3 month renewable contract basis to avoid providing insurance for them and the few “privileges” that come with being employed on a permanent basis.

So you see, my years working in the hospitality industry have been marred with uncertainty and the fear of imminent doom. Now that Covid -19 has happened, it has taken less than a month for over 60 families to lose their source of livelihood in my work place. Actually, it has taken just one email to change the course of our lives completely.

While wallowing in self pity may seem like an option at this moment, I feel like I can almost just breathe out now, because if not for the pandemic, I was still living under the constant cloud of uncertainty anyway.
I am still unsure of what the next step will be, but there will be one. For now, let me just breathe.