Press Release: New Survey Reveals Women at Hotel on Brink of Strike Have Been Sexually Harassed at Work

VANCOUVER – A new survey of hotel workers at five major downtown hotels reveals that more women workers at Hotel Georgia report experiencing sexual harassment – guests showing sexual texts or pictures, making unwelcome sexual jokes, comments or asking sexual questions, and guests attempting to touch workers – than the female staff of any of the other surveyed hotels. 56% of surveyed women working at Hotel Georgia report having experienced unwanted physical touching from guests. These survey results display a disturbing lack of response from management to sexualised mistreatment of their female employees. On August 7, workers at the Hotel Georgia overwhelmingly voted in a favour of authorizing a strike action, ready to walk off the job over safety concerns amongst other serious workplace issues faced by staff at the five-star hotel.

In July, hospitality workers at the Hyatt, Westin Bayshore, Pinnacle, Four Seasons and Hotel Georgia were surveyed about their experience with sexual harassment. According to the results compiled in the report, Hotel Georgia had the highest proportion of surveyed workers who had been made to feel uncomfortable by guest behaviour (73%), followed by the Westin Bayshore (55%) and the Hyatt (52%). The Hotel Georgia also had the highest proportion of surveyed workers who reported that a guest has touched or tried to touch them in an unwelcome way (56%). Despite high levels of sexual harassment, 69% of workers across the five hotels had not received any sexual harassment training from management.

Earlier this month, certain female employees at the Hotel Georgia filed a human rights complaint against the hotel for gender discrimination, an overly-sexualized work environment and failure to respond appropriately to incidents of harassment or assault in the workplace. The survey report validates the need for urgent change in Vancouver’s hotel industry to ensure women are safe on the job. UNITE HERE is calling for measures such as: panic buttons, a hotel ban of guests that commit sexual harassment, whistleblower protection for those who come forward to report incidents and special safety representatives to investigate harassment, discrimination and safety issues in the hotel.

The threat of strike looms as staff at the Hotel Georgia have given their 72 hour strike notice. Frustrated with working conditions that do not meet its five-star standard, workers are prepared to take action. Sexual assault is the only crime in Vancouver on the rise, having increased 16% since 2016.

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UNITE HERE Local 40 represents workers throughout B.C. who work in hotels, food service and airports. Local 40 is part of the UNITE HERE International Union, representing over 300,000 workers across Canada and the U.S.

For a copy of the report “Is the Guest Always Right?” please contact Sharan Pawa at [email protected]