VANCOUVER – University of British Columbia students delivered a petition today demanding the Sauder Centre for Social Innovation cut its ties with a board member over his company’s treatment of its workers.
Representatives of UBC’s Social Justice Centre say actions by the Vancouver-based Larco hotel chain hurt the Sauder centre’s reputation for creating social and economic good. The students say Larco CEO Amin Lalji shouldn’t be involved in the Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing.
“We feel, as students, that we have to keep UBC accountable to its promises of social responsibility,” said Social Justice Centre member Eviatar Bach, adding “we can’t let the university become a tool for boosting the reputation of donors we feel are engaged in unethical behavior.”
Representatives from the Social Justice Centre were joined by Larco hotel workers. Unite Here, the union representing the workers, says its members are fighting an uphill battle for respect and fair treatment.
In Toronto, Unite Here Local 75 members at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel recently filed an Unfair Labour Practice against the company for interference in a union organizing drive. Unite Here Local 40 President Robert Demand said, “Workers at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel are increasingly squeezed by higher workloads while earning significantly lower wages than workers at comparable local hotels.”
“As a housekeeper I work very hard, my job carries a high risk of injury, and many of my co-workers work in pain every day, said Sheraton housekeeper Jean Harvey. “We deserve to be heard, but I don’t believe Mr. Lalji is listening to us, or treating us with respect.” Harvey joined the delegation presenting the petition at UBC today.
Demand said the union appreciates the interest and support from UBC students and hopes the petition alerts the Sauder centre to the seriousness of the situation.
UBC Social Justice Centre: Eviatar Bach, 604-727-6117, [email protected]
Unite Here Local 40: Octavian Cadabeschi, 604-813-2105, [email protected]
The UBC Social Justice Centre aims to serve any and all students interested in finding progressive solutions to societal and global injustice. UNITE HERE Local 40 is the union for hospitality workers in British Columbia.
Canadian Cities Join Hotel Housekeepers Global Week of Action
A joint press conference was held today in Vancouver and Toronto with community leaders representing several Filipino, South Asian and faith groups and UNITE HERE Canada. Community leaders demanded that Larco Hospitality stop mistreating hotel workers, many of them immigrant women, who report heavy workloads and experience work-related pain and who have experienced violations of basic rights in their efforts to organize.
This action was part of the Hotel Housekeepers Global Week of Action, featuring multiple coordinated actions by housekeepers in more than a dozen countries around the world.
In Vancouver, representatives from the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), KAIROS Vancouver, Longhouse Ministry, Richmond Poverty Response Committee, and Langara College Professor Indira Prahst, joined to support hotel workers from the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel who are members of UNITE HERE Local 40.
“We stand in solidarity with the workers of Sheraton and we appeal to management of the Sheraton to look at the issues and give appropriate wages and conditions for labour,” said Chelliah Premrajah, from the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy. He added, “The large number of employees here are immigrants or are descendants of immigrants. We want their standard of living to improve, particularly in Richmond, where housing is extremely unaffordable and transport costs are increasing, making it harder to live here.”
In Toronto, speakers included members of Migrante Canada, an international human rights organization for Filipino migrants, members of AnakBayan Toronto (AB-TO), an all-youth advocacy group organizing events around issues affecting the Filipino community in Canada, and hotel workers from the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel who recently voted to join UNITE HERE Local 75 and are currently negotiating their first contract.
Background: Larco Investments, and its affiliate, Larco Hospitality, is a major hotel owner/operator in Canada. Many of Larco’s hotel employees are first generation immigrants who are Filipino, South Asian and Chinese. During this week’s Hotel Housekeepers Global Week of Action, community leaders in Vancouver and Toronto will be calling on Larco to stop mistreating workers at their hotels.
In Vancouver, workers at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport hotel, owned by an affiliate of Larco Hospitality, are being squeezed by heavy workloads and lower wage and benefit standards than at comparable hotels, earning, on average $8,000 less annually.
In Toronto, workers at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel report that Larco Hospitality interfered with their right to organize at the hotel through the use of intimidation and harassment tactics during a union drive this summer. In response, UNITE HERE Local 75 filed charges against Larco with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The workers are currently negotiating their first contract.
Hotel workers, particularly housekeepers, are often immigrants, women, and people of colour, and are the invisible backbone of the hotel industry. The work they do can be grueling and dangerous. It entails lifting mattresses that can weigh up to 100 pounds, pushing heavy carts, and dealing with guests behind closed doors. Heavy and repetitive workloads combined with intense time pressures can contribute to chronic pain and injuries for housekeepers.
Housekeepers affiliated with UNITE HERE in Canada and the U.S. are joining worldwide protests this week to spotlight safety concerns and poor wages faced by women who clean hotel rooms. The Hotel Housekeepers Global Week of Action is from October 31 to November 6.
UNITE HERE Canada is the union for hospitality workers and represents thousands of hotel and food service workers throughout Canada.
Vancouver – Octavian Cadabeschi, (604) 813-2105 or [email protected]
Toronto – Marc Hollin, (647) 408-5428 or [email protected]
International – Massimo Frattini, IUF, [email protected]
WHEN: Wednesday, October 19
WHERE: Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel, 7551 Westminster Hwy, Richmond
Vancouver, BC — Hotel workers will hold demonstrations today in Vancouver and Toronto at several Larco-owned and operated hotels to protest the company’s treatment of workers, the majority of whom are immigrants. The workers, represented UNITE HERE, are calling on Larco Hospitality to end years of disrespect and to raise standards at their hotels.
Larco workers in Vancouver, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, will demonstrate at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel where they earn, on average, $8,000 a year less than workers at comparable hotels. The rally is the latest in a series of protests held by workers to protest heavy workloads and lower wage and benefit standards at the Sheraton compared to other high-end hotels. Workers are seeking to bargain independently with the Sheraton, which is currently bargaining alongside more than 40 hotel and motel employers through a master contract agreement represented by Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR). Unlike the Sheraton, most of the properties represented in the master agreement are lower-end hotels and motels.
“We provide top service to our customers at the Sheraton, but our hard work is not recognized by Larco. Since the hotel became a Sheraton, our workloads have gotten heavier, but we earn less than room attendants at similar hotels. We rush to finish more work in less time, and the work is causing us pain. Some of us take pain killers just to get through the day. We tell the company we deserve better treatment, but they don’t listen to us,” said Jean Harvey, a room attendant at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel.
Today in Toronto, hotel workers will also protest at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel (Skydome), to be joined by workers holding simultaneous actions at other Larco-owned hotels, the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville and the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel. In July, workers at the Renaissance voted to join UNITE HERE Local 75. Local 75 has filed charges with the Ontario Labour Relations Board against Larco Hospitality for repeatedly breaking provincial labour law in an attempt to interfere with workers’ right to organize. A labour board mediation will be held at the end of November followed by hearings, if necessary.
Luz Flores, a room attendant at the Renaissance said: “When Larco management found out that we were organizing, all of us room attendants were told that, if the union came in, the company would start writing us up if they found anything wrong with the rooms that we clean each day and that after three mistakes, we could be terminated. Many of us have worked here for more than a decade and we need these jobs to support our families. It wasn’t right to threaten us that way. Even though most of us are immigrant workers, we still have rights and Larco needs to respect those.”
Larco Hospitality is part of the Larco Group of Companies and is owned by the prominent Lalji family. The parent company is a major real estate owner and developer with significant hotel holdings in Canada. Last year, the owners of Larco were ranked #28 on Canadian Business’ annual ranking of Richest 100 Canadians.
UNITE HERE Local 40 and UNITE HERE Local 75 represent thousands of hospitality workers throughout British Columbia and in the Greater Toronto Area, respectively.
For more information about today’s demonstrations, please contact Michelle Travis at [email protected]
Members of UNITE HERE Local 40 working for inflight caterer Gate Gourmet ratified their new three-year contract this week. The new agreement achieves significant wage increases, restores overtime on the 6th and 7th days of work, provides new protection for sick and injured workers, and covers increases in medical costs.
The new agreement narrowly averted a strike by inflight catering workers at Vancouver International Airport. Local 40, which represents 400 food preparation workers and drivers at Gate Gourmet, had issued a 72-hour strike notice on August 16.
“After weeks of hard bargaining, we’ve got a deal that addresses the rising cost of living in Vancouver as well as other respect issues in the workplace. Going forward, we are happy to settle a contract that will make sure workers can securely take part in the company’s growing prosperity,” said Phillip Lin, a member of the Union bargaining committee and a high lift driver at Gate Gourmet.
UNITE HERE Local 40 has filed a 72-hour strike notice with the Labour Relations Board on behalf of 400 inflight catering workers at Gate Gourmet. Gate Gourmet provides food and beverages to major airlines like Air Canada, United Airlines, Air China and others.
The Union is scheduled to bargain with the company tomorrow, Friday, August 19th. Check back for more details on a possible strike at YVR.