Since July 17, 2019, the maids and housekeepers of the Ibis Batignolles Hotel (Accord Group) in Paris are on strike. In this conversation recorded on December 1, 2020 by our own Amel Hadj Hassen, two spokespersons of the movement, Sylvie Kimissa and Rachel Kéké Raissa, describe their daily life at work, the various layers of exploitation they encounter and the effects on their bodies, as well as their political organizing of this past year and a half.
Article published in The Funambulist 33 (January-February 2021) Spaces of Labor. Click here to access the rest of the issue.
AMEL HADJ-HASSEN: Thank you for accepting to answer our questions Sylvie and Rachel. This issue of The Funambulist is dedicated to space and labor. Could you tell us about your working days, how do you go about it, and what does your work consist of?
SYLVIE KIMISSA: I am a maid at the Hotel Ibis Batignolles in Paris. We start work at 8.30am every morning. To get there I’ll first take the bus, then the suburban train, and then the metro because the hotel is inside Paris. This journey takes over an hour from home. When we arrive, the first thing we do is change into our work clothes at the locker room in the third basement. Then we take the elevator upstairs to our offices on the 8th floor. This is where we sign the sheets we are given for our schedules.
What are schedules? They consist of a list of rooms that we need to clean. For example, if I have a six-hour contract, I must do 21 rooms because I am paid by the room, and not by the hour. The hours are calculated in relation to the number of rooms. So, in a six-hour contract with 21 rooms to clean means I will have to do three and a half rooms an hour. There are also two types of rooms: those where a client has departed and those where the same client will sleep again.
When a client leaves, it will involve putting the “departee room” back to the condition of the new room, renewing it for another client. It must be cleaned well, and you will have to watch out for spiders because we don’t know how long the client spent in their room. We call rooms that are still rented by the client “returnee rooms.” These rooms need to be serviced while the customer’s luggage is still inside.