Gate Gourmet workers hold press conference, issue travel alert

 

Gate Gourmet member delivers statement

Gate Gourmet member delivers statement

On August 11th, UNITE HERE Local 40 airline catering members who work for Gate Gourmet held a press conference to issue a travel alert and discuss a possible strike at Vancouver International Airport.  Gate Gourmet is a global inflight caterer that services Air Canada, British Airways, Air China, and other major airlines.

Citing the company’s failed promise to pay workers properly after a three-year wage freeze, the stripping away of overtime on the 6th and 7th day of work, and poor treatment of injured workers returning to work, Gate Gourmet workers addressed the media and described what changes they want to see in their workplace.  They were joined by Jenny Kwan, MP for Vancouver East, and Aaron Ekman, Secretary-Treasurer, BC Federation of Labour, who spoke in support of the workers.

“I stay overtime so the airlines can get their food on time.  Sometimes we go home at 2am to make sure food is delivered. But we are so understaffed, we are doing the jobs of two people.   On top of that, the company manages to take away our overtime on the 6th and 7th day of work.  Some of us end up working 8 to 10 days in a row without overtime,” said bargaining committee member, Leonisa Paraton, Team Leader-Cold Section, and 20-year employee.

Two other veteran employees described poor treatment of those who return to work after experiencing illness or injury.  Months after returning to work, and in one case a year later, the company told workers that their seniority would be reduced retroactively, making them more vulnerable to layoffs and adversely impacting their shift assignments.

Gate Gourmet is benefiting from a turnaround in the airline industry and has won lucrative new business recently.  In Vancouver, the tourism industry is booming.  Passenger numbers for Vancouver International Airport (YVR) are at an all-time high with a record 20.3 million visitors in 2015 and expected to grow in 2016. Yet, the company has failed to adequately recognize the economic sacrifices made by their 400 employees, mostly immigrants from China and other parts of the globe, who agreed to concessions in their last contract three years ago.

On August 3rd, workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize job actions, up to and including a strike, if no progress is made at the table.  Both sides remain far apart and have entered into mediation.  The workers’ contract expired on July 31, 2016.

March with Local 40 at Pride 2016!

Love Has No borders posterJoin UNITE HERE Local 40 at the Vancouver Pride Parade this year!

March with the union, defend LGBTQ rights, and support hotel workers as part of our campaign to end job discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

This year our union’s theme is “Love Has No Borders!”

The Pride parade takes place Sunday, July 31st at Noon.

Our Local will gather at 11:00am on the west side of Thurlow Street, between Robson and Haro.

For more info contact: ocadabeschi@unitehere.org or call 604-813-2105.

 

Hotel workers seek gains in HIR negotiations as BC’s hotel industry booms

Just in case...

Local 40 committee members address management during bargaining

Helen - Housekeeping - Holiday Inn North Vancouver

Helen Baisa- Housekeeper – Holiday Inn North Van

In the midst of a boom for Metro Vancouver’s tourism industry, UNITE HERE Local 40 has begun negotiations with the 48 hospitality employers that are represented by  Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR).

Over seventy union members attended the first bargaining session at the Holiday Inn Downtown on June 8th. Members representing properties across the Greater Vancouver Area, Victoria, Harrison, and other parts of B.C addressed management during the meeting. They highlighted the need for better wages, benefits, and retirement packages.

Metro Vancouver’s tourism industry surpassed nine million visitors for the first time ever in 2015, and is on track to surpass that this year.  According to industry analysts, hotel profits were up 28% in 2015 and are forecast to grow 13% in 2016.  Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to skyrocket for workers. Local 40 members look forward to sharing in the industry’s success and hope to see tangible increases to their wages and benefits in this upcoming contract.

During the bargaining session, Helen Baisa, room attendant at the Holiday Inn North Vancouver, spoke about how the rising cost of living is making life increasingly difficult for hotel workers. “Rent, food, all utilities are higher, and we cannot afford to pay them all,” she said, “so we are asking for an increase to our wages.”

Alice Wong, a room attendant from the Empire Landmark Hotel, echoed those sentiments and focused on the need for an improved pension plan.  “I have worked at the Empire Landmark Hotel for 41 years.  Hopefully, I can be comfortable when I retire.”

 

 

 

 

Newly ratified contract for Hilton Metrotown Workers

New agreement maintains top hotel standard in Vancouver.

Burnaby, BC – UNITE HERE Local 40 members at Hilton Metrotown ratified their new union contract with a 96% YES vote!  The agreement increases economics by $1.45 over the next two years, preserves hard-fought Room Attendant workload standards, and enhances job security language.

Hilton Bargaining Committe, April 27, 2016

Hilton Bargaining Committee, April 27, 2016

Workers faced a tough round of bargaining, but with the support of union customers and elected officials, along with actions in the streets and in the workplace, Hilton workers sent a strong message to the company that we will stand up for decent standards.

“We are so happy that we were able to keep our workload the same.  Housekeeping is very hard work, and we fought very hard to keep our standard.  Thank you to all of the Unions and politicians that supported us in this struggle,” said Delia Labrador, a Room Attendant who has worked at the Hilton for 16 years.

Among the many union customers who showed their support for Hilton workers were BCGEU, HEU, PSAC, CUPE, MoveUP, Steelworkers and Telecommunications Workers, HSA, and the BC Federation of Labour.

The Hilton bargaining committee worked with hotel management to negotiate an agreement that acknowledged difficult economic conditions at the hotel, while avoiding concessions.  The Hilton withdrew its demands to increase workload for Room Attendants and to eliminate severance pay.

The new contract provides enhanced job security language to protect workers’ jobs, seniority, wages and benefits in the event of a sale, subcontracting or leasing in the workplace.

“I’m so glad we were able to win new job security protections.  It gives us the peace of mind we need to provide quality service to the guests,” said long-term employee, Sergio Moyer, Front Desk Supervisor.

The new contract will expire in 2018.  The Hilton workers will join other Metro Vancouver hotel workers from the Hyatt Vancouver, Westin Bayshore, Pinnacle Harbourfront, Four Seasons, Hotel Georgia and Pacific Gateway, who will all bargain in 2018.

 

Arbitrator Rules in Favor of UNITE HERE Local 40 at Nanaimo Golf Club

Binding settlement brings labour dispute to an end.

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Nanaimo billboard co-sponsored by Nanaimo-Duncan & District Labour Council and Local 40.

The longstanding labour dispute between the Nanaimo Golf Club and food and beverage workers ended with an arbitrator ruling in favor of the workers on April 26th.

Contract negotiations broke down April 24, 2015 when Club management locked out two dozen Clubhouse workers, all members of UNITE HERE Local 40.  After 11 months, the Club acceded to Union demands to allow workers to return to work this March and agreed to go to binding arbitration.

The Arbitrator’s binding decision awarded a 2% wage hike in 2016 and 2017 and a lump sum payment to the workers.  The arbitrator’s decision vindicates the union’s position and blocked the Club’s attempt to gain concessions.

Club management locked out workers to force them to accept a number of concessions, such as lowering wages for new hires, having bargaining unit work performed by non-union employees, and restricting union members right to file charges against workers crossing a picket line.

“The arbitrator’s ruling proves what we were asking for was fair and reasonable. I hope others now see that too,” said Kayla Werezak, a returning server.

Bryce Eldred, another returning worker, is glad to be back on the job. “This is a big win.  Good union jobs are hard to find in Nanaimo, and I’m glad to have one here,” said Eldred.

Now that workers have returned to work and have a new contract, UNITE HERE Local 40 encourages golfers and the general public to once again patronize the Nanaimo Golf Club greens, dining room and catering facilities.

 

BREAKING NEWS: Nanaimo Golf Club Lifts Lockout

After more than 1o months behind a picket line, the Nanaimo Gold Club has lifted the lockout of their workers!

PRESS RELEASE – Hilton Travel Alert

local40logo-300x155

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 23, 2016
CONTACT: Kirsty Peterson, kpeterson@local40union.com, 604-619-2434

Hotel Union and Labor Allies Issue Travel Alert for Hilton Metrotown

Some unions already planning alternate arrangements in case of labour dispute

(Burnaby, BC) Workers from the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown are joining together with leaders from the labour movement Tuesday to announce a travel alert for their hotel. British Columbia’s hospitality workers’ union, UNITE HERE Local 40 is concerned about the possibility of a lockout and is preparing for the worst at the Hilton. In response, union workers are alerting hotel customers and allies to prepare for the dispute.

“As one of Hilton Metrotown’s largest customers it’s concerning that the hotel is unwilling to agree to a fair contract with their employees,” says Stephanie Smith, President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU). “Our senior leadership has determined that in the event of a lockout or other labour dispute, the BCGEU will immediately cease all business with Hilton Metrotown and would have to reevaluate our future dealings with the hotel.”

Local 40 has reached major settlements in all other major upscale union hotels, the Hyatt, Westin Bayshore, Pinnacle, Pacific Gateway Hotel, Four Seasons, Rosewood Hotel Georgia and the most recent being the Coast Master agreement that settled last week. The Hilton Vancouver Metrotown is the only hotel that refuses to budge on current contract proposals.

Current proposals leave virtually no room for staff raises. Additionally, Hilton management wants to increase the workload for housekeepers and eliminate severance pay.

“This has been the toughest set of bargaining in all my years at the hotel. Management has proposed concession after concession. That’s why we are taking the difficult step of calling for this Travel Alert,” said Front Desk Supervisor Sergio Moyer, who has worked at the Hilton since its opening in 1999.

As the Hilton Metrotown is Burnaby’s only premium full-service hotel, the risk of a labour dispute is causing some unions and labour-friendly travellers to reconsider their upcoming bookings. This would divert business from Burnaby to other cities such as Vancouver and Richmond. Although the workers and the union are not asking anybody to move their business yet, other unions have already begun developing backup plans for their bookings.

Press Conference 11am – Hilton Vancouver Metrotown

Speakers:       Robert Demand, President, UNITE HERE Local 40

Irene Lanzinger, President, BC Federation of Labour

Donisa Bernardo, Financial Secretary, Hospital Employees Union

Delia Labrador, Housekeeper, Hilton Vancouver Metrotown

Sergio Moyer, Front Desk Supervisor, Hilton Vancouver Metrotown

UNITE HERE represents 270,000 women and men across North America who work in the hotel, gaming, food service, and airport industries. Learn more at www.uniteherelocal40.org

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Union Calls to Boycott Nanaimo Golf Club

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

proof of performance 4-Jan-16 X-042S_UniteHere

(Nanaimo, BC) Unite Here Local 40 is calling for a boycott of the Nanaimo Golf Club after two dozen food and beverage workers have been locked out by the Club for over nine months. Local 40 is BC’s Hospitality Workers’ union and represents the locked out workers.  “January is the month that Nanaimo Golf Club Members are renewing their memberships”, explains Shelly Ervin, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 40, “and while many Nanaimo businesses and organizations are respecting our picket line, we are asking golf club members not to renew their membership as well as prospective members to use other local clubs until after a settlement is reached.”

To help raise awareness of this issue, Local 40 and the Nanaimo, Duncan & District Labour Council have partnered to post a billboard on the Island Highway northbound into Nanaimo from
Ladysmith. The message is a short and to the point “Nanaimo Golf Club Doesn’t Think You Care”.  Stephanie Sparkes, one of the locked out workers, explains that “although the Golf Club seems to think that the community doesn’t care about us, our experience is that they care a lot”. She says that throughout the lockout people have been dropping by with food, honking as they drive by, and some local residents have hosted fundraisers to help out financially. “What we are hoping for is that residents of Nanaimo move one step further and start showing the company how much Nanaimo cares about workers and about good jobs, including those in the service sector!” says Sparkes.  Both Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog and Nanaimo MP, Sheila Malcomson have taken the time to meet with workers, hear their concerns directly and show their support by dropping by the picket line. Krog feels that this issue matters to the community. “Nanaimo wants this settled, and binding arbitration is the only sensible course”.

Workers are calling for Nanaimo residents to support the boycott of the Club, and to speak to friends, family and neighbours asking them not to renew their Golf Club memberships, and not to plan events at the club until these locked out members are back at work.

For more information:

Kirsty Peterson, Local 40 Communications

604-619-2934 or kpeterson@local40union.com

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Coast Plaza Members Ratify 3-year Contract

Is a Canada Revenue Agency landlord avoiding taxes via offshore havens?

Published by the National Observer, Written by Bruce Livesey in News | October 15th 2015
Canada’s 2015 Federal Election Campaign

cra
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rents office space from a Vancouver-based property developer – a company that exploits offshore tax havens in Lichtenstein, the British Virgin Islands and Channel Islands.
Larco Investments Ltd. owns three buildings in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton where they rent office space to the CRA. Larco purchased the buildings from the federal government in 2007.

Yet evidence has emerged that Larco takes advantage of offshore tax havens.

“It’s interesting to us that as a government landlord, that’s also the landlord of the CRA, when the CRA is supposed to be going after this (offshore) stuff… it just raises questions about whether the CRA is aware,” says Michelle Travis, research co-ordinator of UNITE HERE Canada, the hospitality and hotel worker’s union which represents workers employed by Larco.
govt_buildings_rented_by_craLeft: Canada Place building in Alberta. Right: Harry Hayes building in Calgary
UNITE HERE stumbled upon Larco’s use of offshore tax havens while researching the company.

The Larco-CRA case is symbolic of the Harper government’s track record of allowing billions of dollars of potentially taxable corporate monies to flee to offshore tax havens. In 1990, only $11-billion was flowing from Canadian corporations to offshore tax havens: today this sum is almost $200-billion a year and growing. An estimated $8-billion is also lost annually through tax evasion.

These sums suggest that if the Harper government was more diligent in tracking offshore money or plugging holes in the tax code, they would not have to run deficits, impose austerity measures, raid the EI surplus or sell its shares in General Motors — while also funding health care, education and infrastructure.

“It’s a horrendous problem,” says Senator Percy Downe, Jean Chrétien’s former chief of staff, who has spent the past nine years pursuing the offshore tax haven issue.

“If we collected what we’re owed to the government… there’d be additional money to fund programs that are being cut. And taxes could be lower or remain lower.”

In fact, Alain Deneault, a sociologist at the Université du Québec and author of the recent book Canada: A New Tax Haven, maintains “[The Conservatives] are offshore-friendly actually. They don’t see it as something wrong officially.”

Lalji family and their offshore tax structures

Larco is a privately-held company owned by the Lalji family, one of Canada’s wealthiest clans, sitting on a fortune estimated at $2.6-billion. Run by three brothers – Amin, Mansoor and Shiraz – the Laljis fled Uganda in the 1970s during the dictatorship of Idi Amin, settling in BC.

There they founded a burgeoning real estate empire, owning hotels and retail outlets such as the Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver.

The Laljis are notoriously private and media shy – the Globe and Mail’s business magazine once listed them among Canada’s “hermit kings” – although they haven’t escaped controversy entirely.
Right: Mansoor Lalji.

lalji_-_mansoor_shirazLeft: Michael Fortier, then minister of Public Works, left, and Amin Lalji

In 2007, Shiraz Lalji was criticized for destroying one of architect Arthur Erickson’s earliest single-family dwellings in BC – the David Graham house.

“We were upset,” says Philip Boname, president of the Arthur Erickson Foundation, who said Shiraz never responded to appeals to change his mind.In 2007, the Laljis paid $1.4-billion to buy seven federal buildings the Harper government had put up for sale – and then rented them back to the government with 25-year leases. The CRA has offices in three of the buildings.

By then, though, the Laljis had been using offshore tax havens for years. In 2003, Larco appeared before two Nevada gaming agencies when it wanted to change its financial arrangement with one of the casinos it owns in Las Vegas. The Nevada authorities wanted more information about who exactly controlled the casino.

At hearings in Carson City, Nevada, Thad Alston, Larco’s senior vice-president, gave an explanation, noting that “this [corporate] structure was created really with legal, tax and estate planning considerations for the Lalji family.”

The structure is complex: The Laljis had created a company called Hotspur Resorts Nevada Inc. to bid for casino assets in Nevada. Hotspur’s ownership was structured through a series of offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands, a notorious offshore tax haven.

The chain ended with a foundation called Hilfreich Stiftung located in Liechtenstein, the tiny European offshore tax haven. Also involved was the Lalji Family Trust, and the HSBC bank, a British global banking giant.

While it’s not illegal to park money offshore as long as you declare it to the CRA, these offshore havens are used because they charge little to no taxes for companies and wealthy families – which is why the money is deposited there. “There are so many loopholes available to companies that companies can do it legally,” says Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, which lobbies against the use of such havens. “Unless you really flagrantly violate the laws, the CRA doesn’t have time or money to come after you.”

In his 2003 testimony, Alston indicated that the ultimate control of the family’s companies was held by the Lalji Family Trust. He said the trust was scheduled to be dissolved in 2005, whereby the Laljis would have to pay taxes to the CRA.

Thus, Alston said they decided to move some of this money offshore before 2005 “for estate planning and tax efficiency purposes, with the idea that you’d end up with a sum of funds offshore in a tax-free jurisdiction with the idea that with the funds under the control of essentially a bank, trust company, you would then have a way to manage those assets, those funds for the benefit of the families (for) generations to come. So that was the idea.”

He indicated that the sums moved offshore amounted to between $300-million and $500-million.

Ultimately, the offshore funds were managed by Hilfreich Stiftung, the Lichtenstein-based foundation created by the Laljis, which in turn was overseen by HSBC – a bank notorious for its offshore tax haven shenanigans. Media exposés earlier this year revealed how the bank’s Swiss arm helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal tens of millions in assets.
During his testimony, Alston said: “We had a long-standing relationship with HSBC. They had been a primary lender of the Canadian operating company for over 15 years, and actually, we ended up spending a substantial amount of time with the HSBC people in Zurich, which is where they are set up to manage the Lichtenstein foundations that they manage.

“We also looked at their experience in managing funds for other wealthy families and were convinced that as these things go, HSBC would be the ideal candidate for managing these funds.”

The Hilfreich Stiftung, while run by HSBC employees, was to act on recommendations made by Alston and Shiraz Lalji.

At another point in his testimony, Alston revealed the Laljis make use of another notorious offshore haven – the Channel Islands, just off the coast of England, and the island of Jersey specifically. And there, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) was involved. “So if you look at the [family’s] hotels that are in London, those are owned by ultimately a [foundation] administered in Jersey,” explained Alston, noting that RBC’s managing director in Jersey manages those assets.

Despite this elaborate offshore structure, there is no evidence the Laljis and Larco are engaged in illegal tax evasion.

“I’m sure that setting up of the [Lalji family] trust was related to tax avoidance,” surmises Howlett. “We don’t have evidence to say whether it was evasion or not. But why would you go to all that trouble unless there was some tax reason involved?… When something like this comes to a light it’s important that the CRA investigate.”

This is not the only controversy swirling around the Laljis. At the time of the sale of the seven buildings to Larco in 2007, there was criticism over whether the family received a sweetheart deal from the Harper government.

Indeed, the NDP, Liberals and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) trade union, claimed the buildings were sold for a song. A study commissioned by PSAC suggested that the buildings were unloaded for almost $800-million less than they were really worth.

“The federal government has established a cloak of secrecy so dense [about this sale] that even MPs are being kept in the dark,” noted John Gordon, PSAC’s president at the time. “According to our calculations, Canadians could pay as much as $2 in rent for every $1 received in proceeds from the sale.”

Moreover, a CBC investigation last year found relations between Larco and the federal government had soured over management of the buildings, with bureaucrats at Public Works and Government Services Canada claiming that Larco was a poor landlord, overcharging for services. In 2009, the department even sued Larco, which was settled two years later. The government’s bureaucrats believed the leases with Larco were a bad deal for taxpayers.

Mansoor Lalji, on the other hand, claimed that Public Works had erected too many hurdles for them to operate properly.

Messages and an email from the Observer were sent to Thad Alston seeking comment on these issues but were not replied to.

While other countries crack down on tax avoidance, Harper lays off thousands of CRA staff

If the Laljis are using offshore havens to chop their tax bill, they have plenty of company among Canada’s wealthiest families and the corporate sector.

In fact, the tax haven of Barbados is the second-largest recipient of Canadian foreign investment after the US – with $71-billion in 2014, up from $50-billion in 2010, while the Cayman Islands are ranked fourth, receiving $36-billion.

“When Canadian corporations invest $71 billion in the Barbados we know it’s not about investment – it’s about tax avoidance,” says Deneault.

Of course, using offshore havens for evading taxes is a time-honoured tradition among Canada’s political and business elites. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney received cash payments from German arms wheeler-dealer Karlheinz Schreiber totaling $300,000—though Mulroney claimed it was $225,000— in 1993 and 1994, which he didn’t bother declaring to the CRA until 1999. For a period of time much of this money sat in a safety deposit box in a New York bank.

Canada Steamship Lines Inc. (CSL), the family business of former prime minister Paul Martin Jr., has an international division registered in the Barbados. The Barbadian corporation is owned by a holding company in Bermuda, another offshore haven. This complicated setup allows CSL to escape paying millions in Canadian taxes.

Meanwhile, prominent business families such as the Irvings, Bronfmans and Stronachs use offshore havens to cut their tax bill, as do the chartered banks and corporations like Cameco, Gildan Activewear, Eldorado Gold, Cirque du Soleil and Québecor, among many others.

KPMG and banks like RBC have been investigated by the CRA for helping wealthy Canadians set up offshore tax structures.

And how has the Harper government responded? In 2012-13, the government chopped $259-million from the CRA’s budget over five years – the largest single cut to any department, making it harder to investigate tax evasion.

“They laid off three thousand CRA staff, totally decimating capacity and losing many experienced auditors,” says Howlett. “What’s happening now is while other countries are beginning to crack down, Canada is lagging behind.”

Meanwhile, the number of people convicted of tax evasion in Canada has dropped by more than half since 2009, according to the CRA’s own figures. In 2013, it was discovered that Jim Love, chairman of the Royal Canadian Mint, and a good friend of former finance minister Jim Flaherty’s, helped a wealthy Canadian family move millions through offshore havens to avoid paying taxes.

Today, Senator Downe is appalled at how little political will there is to collect monies owed to the government.

“There is a lot of money out there,” he says, “a lot of money is owed and a lot of money is not being collected…. Why are you and I paying taxes when other people are avoiding them? We should not have to make up the shortfall.”

October 15, 5:22pm -Several minor edits have been made to this article to prepare for re-publication