Vancouver’s hotel workers hold protest at Rosewood Hotel Georgia – Workers demand better industry standards and call for an end to precarious work

Vancouver – Hotel workers from downtown Vancouver’s most prestigious hotels, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, held a protest on Tuesday, May 14th outside of Rosewood Hotel Georgia, named the #1 hotel in Canada by U.S. News & World Report. Rosewood Hotel Georgia, a luxury hotel charging up to $7,000 per night for a suite, should be leading the industry in terms of decent working conditions for Vancouver’s hotel workers. At a time of record profits, workers are demanding that the hotel and others in the downtown core offer 5-star working conditions, including full-time jobs.

Over 1,500 UNITE HERE Local 40 members from Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Four Seasons, Hyatt, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle Harbourfront are currently in contract negotiations demanding significant improvements for hospitality workers. Despite Vancouver’s tourism boom, the hotel industry has progressively cut workers’ hours, turning full-time positions into on-call, precarious jobs. This makes it difficult for hotel workers, predominantly women, to achieve liveable incomes.

Vancouver’s downtown hotel workers are fighting for full-time hours, safe workloads, an end to gender discrimination, and higher wages in order to provide for their families in North America’s most expensive city. Job security is also a major concern in these negotiations, and especially critical for workers at the Four Seasons which is set to close in January 2020. Four Seasons workers want to be rehired when the hotel opens in a new location.

I am proud to be a hotel worker, but the hotel industry needs to treat us better. One recent summer, over 20 of my co-workers were on WCB because of injuries caused by the high workload in only two months. Even though my hotel is making tons of money, I don’t even have stable 40 hours of work,” said Nym Calvez, Housekeeper at the Pinnacle Hotel and an Executive Board Member of UNITE HERE Local 40.

It has become a widespread practice for hotel workers to be classified as a full-time employees, yet are routinely assigned less than 40 hours per week. The workers are required to be available on-call, making it difficult to search for a second job.

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Contact:

Sharan Pawa, 604-725-0053, [email protected]  

UNITE HERE urges Federal Ministers to protect Canadians data in hotels, nursing homes with ties to the People’s Republic of China

China’s latest threats cause concern over security, privacy risks

For Immediate Release

Vancouver, May 9, 2019 – UNITE HERE, the union for hospitality workers, is formally urging Ottawa to assess the security and privacy risks stemming from the Chinese government’s control of a Canadian nursing home chain and its ties to Canada’s largest hotel company.

Anbang, owner of nursing home chain Retirement Concepts, is controlled by the Chinese government and may have been behind the acquisition of InnVest Hotels.  In a letter* to Minister of Innovation Navdeep Bains and Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, UNITE HERE urges the government to undertake a new assessment of the risks to Canadians in these sectors given escalating diplomatic tensions with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

UNITE HERE is asking Ottawa to examine Anbang and Bluesky and determine who has access to sensitive personal data managed on their behalf and to identify what protocols are in place to secure the personal, financial, medical and other sensitive information belonging to seniors, employees and hotel customers across Canada.

The PRC’s ties to the senior care and hospitality sectors may provide access to large troves of personally identifiable data on Canadians.  It was recently reported that China’s Ministry of State Security was behind the massive cyber attack against the Marriott hotel chain which compromised the personal information of nearly 500 million Starwood guests over a four-year period.

“China’s latest retaliatory actions against Canada and its history of cyber attacks is alarming.  We think an examination into whether the appropriate due diligence has been undertaken and an assessment of the potential risks to Canadians needs to be urgently addressed by the federal government,” said Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE’s British Columbia Local. 

An affiliate of Vancouver-based Pacific Reach Properties sold Retirement Concepts to Anbang in 2017.  Retirement Concepts is British Columbia’s largest senior care chain with two facilities in Alberta and one in Quebec.  Anbang was seized by Chinese authorities soon after and brought under state control after its CEO was sentenced to 18 years in prison for fraud and embezzlement.  The Chinese government holds a 98 per-cent stake in Anbang.

Last year, Ottawa blocked the sale of construction giant Aecon to CCCI over national security concerns.  The Chinese government holds a 64 per-cent stake in CCCI’s parent company.

Press reports have speculated that Anbang could be behind Bluesky’s acquisition of InnVest, Canada’s largest hotel owner. The ownership of Bluesky remains murky, but the CEO of its subsidiary, InnVest, is a former Anbang executive.  Bluesky owns the Hyatt Vancouver, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, the Ottawa Marriott and nearly 80 other hotels in major cities across Canada.

Last month, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliament (NSICOP) warned in a report that China is a threat due to its efforts to engage in espionage and foreign influence activities in Canada.

“How is Ottawa, or even the companies managing nursing homes and hotels with ties to the Chinese government, prepared to protect thousands of seniors, employees and the travelling public from the PRC’s intelligence gathering efforts?” said Chan.

UNITE HERE represents over 270,000 hospitality workers throughout Canada and the United States, including some who work in hotels owned by Pacific Reach Properties, which continues to operate Retirement Concepts, and Bluesky Hotels & Resorts.

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Contact:

Michelle Travis, [email protected], (778) 960-9785

*A copy of UNITE HERE’s letter to Minister Bains and Minister Goodale is available upon request.

 

Prince George Hospitality Workers Rising!

UNITE HERE! Local 40 members living in Prince George have won multiple contract victories across the city over the past six months. By supporting one another across several labour disputes, and with the support of allied unions and community members, Local 40 members have reached strong contract settlements that have improved the lives of hundreds of families in Prince George.

In October, cafeteria workers at the University of Northern British Columbia ratified a new agreement with their employer, the Compass Group, addressing longstanding concerns over low wages and narrowly averting a strike on campus.

Following closely on that victory, in December, workers at Prince George’s Coast Inn of the North reached a settlement alongside workers at the Coast Bastion in Nanaimo, and Coast Harbourfront in Victoria. The new contract includes wage increases, improvements to pension and medical benefits, and important workload protections for housekeepers.

Finally, this January, workers at the Ramada Prince George ratified a contract that enshrined major wage gains.

“The last few years have brought dramatic increases in the cost of living. Being part of a union like UNITE HERE! Local 40 is one of the best ways for hospitality workers like me to keep from falling behind,” said Stacey Moen, a cook at the Ramada Prince George.

PRESS RELEASE: Local 40 members see major wins in Victoria

Victoria – UNITE HERE! Local 40 members in Victoria have been on a roll over the past few weeks, having secured not one, but two major contract victories in the last month. In late November, YYJ Airport food service workers secured a foundational contract that includes significant wage increases, a new pension, workload protection, and more. Following on that victory, another group of local 40 members, staff at the Coast Victoria Harbourfront, ratified a contract with Coast Hotels on December 18, declaring the new agreement a major step forward.

Bargaining together with workers at the Coast Inn of the North in Prince George, and the Coast Bastion in Nanaimo, Coast Harbourfront workers secured a new agreement that includes wage increases, major improvements to pension and medical benefits, language to protect restaurant workers’ tips, and significant workload protection for housekeepers.

“I’ve been working at the Coast Hotel for 27 years. I am proud of my co-workers for staying strong and unified and for fighting for everything that we won in this contract. The improvements to our benefits and pension will really help me and all of my co-workers,” said Christine Hillier, a housekeeper at Coast Victoria Harbourfront.

These victories come at a time when BC’s tourism industry has been booming. Yet, Victoria’s travel and hospitality workers juggle very high workloads and a rising cost of living. UNITE HERE! Local 40 has worked hard to ensure that hospitality workers can continue to afford living and working in Victoria, pushing employers to pay wages that allow workers to keep up.

“The tourism and hospitality industry employs thousands in Victoria, and while our employers generate millions of dollars, workers’ earnings have not matched that growth. I am proud to have worked with other Local 40 members to win contracts that improve our quality of life, and give us jobs we can actually live on. This is only the beginning. I am excited to work with the union to keep transforming the lives of hospitality workers in Victoria,” said Mark Atkins, a cook at YYJ Airport.

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For more information contact: Octavian Cadabeschi at 604-813-2105 or [email protected]

News Release: Contract flip at YVR Airport puts 90 food service workers’ jobs at risk

VANCOUVER – Approximately 90 contracted airport food service workers could lose their jobs due to Vancouver Airport Authority’s recent decision to switch food service operators. The workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, will have to reapply for the jobs or face being replaced by non-union workers earning minimum wage to perform the same work. The Union is urging the provincial government to extend successorship protections to contracted food service workers who are vulnerable when contracts change hands.

The workers are employed by HMSHost, the global airport operator that operates several restaurants and quick serve outlets in YVR Airport’s domestic and international terminals. On Friday, Vancouver Airport Authority announced the award of a new food and beverage contract to a competing food service operator which will lead to 90 workers at White Spot, Burger King and Café Brioche being replaced. Most of the affected workers are women, many of whom immigrated to Canada, and have worked at the airport for over a decade.

“We have no job security at YVR. I have two children, so it’s scary not knowing what comes next,” said Denise Yuile, a long-term server at White Spot in the domestic terminal.

UNITE HERE Local 40 has repeatedly called on Vancouver Airport Authority to retain workers affected by contract-flipping. Vancouver Airport Authority has so far refused to address the issue. When contracts are retendered, workers are told to reapply for their jobs if they want to continue working at the airport, which means they lose any wage and benefit gains earned during their years of service. Local 40 estimates that hundreds of airport concession workers have lost their jobs at YVR as a result.

“This is a prime example of why the province needs to protect contracted food service workers when institutions flip contracts and replace experienced workers with those who are paid minimum wage. YVR’s revolving door of contractors leads to precarious, unstable work and prevents low-wage airport workers from improving their work conditions. YVR touts their role as a sustainable airport but has a long history of treating contracted food service workers, many of them women of colour, as if they’re disposable,” said Zailda Chan, president of UNITE HERE Local 40.

UNITE HERE Local 40 is urging the province to extend successorship protections to contracted food service workers, while also calling on the Vancouver Airport Authority to ensure the incoming contractor hires current workers, recognizes their years of service, and retains their wages and benefits.

Federal and provincial levels of government have acted recently to address contract-flipping in other sectors. In December, the federal government passed legislation that will protect some workers in federally-regulated sectors from contract-flipping, such as security guards and maintenance staff at airports. At the provincial level, the B.C. government recently repealed laws that ends the practice of contract-flipping in the health care sector.

Join us in sending a strong message to the B.C. government that contracted food service workers deserve respect and protection from contract-flipping. Click here to sign our petition.

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Contact: Michelle Travis, 778-960-9785, [email protected]

*This has been updated from the original version.